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Program drives to promote higher education in Ohio

Courtesy of Amira Shouman

For some Ohio State students, going to college was an expectation. For other students, it’s a privilege earned from hard work. Now, OSU students are reaching out to all Ohio school districts through Access88, telling kids that college is a possibility for everyone.

OSU’s on-campus service organization SERV Corps introduces Access88, a service program that travels to school districts in all 88 counties in Ohio to discuss and promote higher education to elementary and school students.

Unlike other SERV Corps projects that are focused on Columbus or OSU, this project is designed to give back to the entire state of Ohio, said Sarah Graf, Access88 project leader.

Ohio lags behind other states in terms of higher education. According to the latest report by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, an organization that works to improve decisions in higher education, in Ohio only 25.5 percent of adults between 25 and 64 have a bachelor’s degree.

In the same age group, Massachusetts ranked highest with 40.3 percent of adults with a bachelor’s degree. Massachusetts has about 5 million fewer people than Ohio, yet nearly double the percent of people with a bachelor’s degree.

“It’s much more prevalent for this generation to get a college degree than their parents, so that’s a disconnection of information parents are giving their children,” Graf said. “When (these kids) graduate high school, there are going to be so many more jobs that require bachelor’s degree than there are students who have them or are obtaining them.”

Access88 project members travel on trips to different schools around Ohio to bring awareness of higher education to students in kindergarten through eighth grade who may not believe they can go to college.

“Research has shown that grades four through eight are the prime time for students to learn about college so they can have the gears turning in their mind and start thinking about what they need to be doing,” Graf said.

About 12 students travel on each trip to a school and SERV Corps sponsors three trips per quarter to different school districts. Once OSU students are at a school, they educate kids about different careers, the importance of higher education and how to go to college, said Shreeya Matthew, an Access88 project leader.

OSU students break down the curriculum into four areas. They tell kids to find a mentor to ask questions about college, to realize that there are many different colleges suitable for potential careers, to always push for success and work hard, and inform kids about the reality that school is expensive, Graf said.

“We want to provide an overview of what we think are the most valuable strategies for going to college, and get them turned onto the idea to take the initiative and look up information,” Matthew said.

In addition to talking to students, Access88 members learn more about the community of a school district and provides some community service too, Matthew said.

A typical trip lasts all day and is held on a Friday to adjust to students’ OSU schedules, Graf said.

School officials and teachers have welcomed OSU students speaking to elementary school students about college.

“We’ve received a lot of positive feedback,” Matthew said. “From what I have seen, it appears teachers have recognized the importance of talking about college early. It’s more of instilling a feeling associated with college and the possibility of achieving higher education and making something salient in the minds of young students.”

Some OSU students support the Access88 program and agree it is a positive program.

“I think it’s a good idea because it’s all about exposure,” said Laura Henkel, a third-year in human nutrition. “The more opportunities to hear and see about college, it’s a good idea. I think it’s a good idea to take the initiative.”

Keisha Tibbs, a fourth-year in psychology, agreed and said reaching out to younger kids is the time to make a difference.

“I think that’s a great thing to do. If you do it just in high school, it may be too late,” Tibbs said. “It makes kids goal-oriented in school. More programs like that can put kids in the right direction.”

SERV Corps and Access88 members are inviting OSU students to be more involved and are accepting applications for Winter Quarter until Dec. 9. Applications can be found at go.osu.edu/Access88

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