When he’s not in the Schottenstein Center running practices and overseeing games, Patrick Klein, the associate head coach of the Ohio State women’s basketball team, is helping young Appalachian students prepare for college and improve their leadership skills.
Klein’s love for basketball is strong, but his love for his hometown and helping those who come from similar areas is stronger.
Klein — originally from Belpre, Ohio, a small Southeastern Ohio town in an Appalachian region — started the iBelieve foundation in 2011, a week-long experiential leadership program for underprivileged students from Appalachian areas.
The foundation puts on several programs throughout the year with workshops that consist of leadership, organizational skills and motivational speaking lessons.
Originally, the foundation started with only 36 students for its Ohio program. It has evolved to incorporate thousands of students throughout multiple states and offers up to eight programs a year.
Klein said the iBelieve program provides a support system for students who might not have one at home.
“I won the parent lottery growing up,” Klein said. “I had the ultimate support system, but most of these kids don’t have that. They are underserved, undereducated and underprepared for the real world.”
The foundation puts high-school students on college campuses for up to five days at a time, giving them opportunities to meet with others and get acquainted with the campus.
Students who take part in multiple iBelieve programs can graduate. All of those that have graduated have gone on to pursue a college education.
Only about 18 percent of all people in Appalachian areas have a four-year college degree, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission.
“Where would I be without iBelieve?,” Ryan Exline, a first-year in zoology, wondered aloud. “I would be missing so much of who I am today.”
Exline, who graduated from iBelieve in 2016, said the foundation gave him the knowledge and confidence to excel at one of the largest universities in America.
“iBelieve gave me the skills to be successful in college, but these are especially important at such a large university like Ohio State,” Exline said. “Had I not been taught these skills, I very well might not be at Ohio State.”
Klein said he hopes to grow iBelieve so that one day the program will be able to incorporate every Appalachian state. It currently has programs in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
“It’s not just changing their future, it’s about generationally changing their families’ future,” Klein said. “Our mission is long term.”
“These kids need a support system,” Klein said. “They need others to show them just what they’re capable of. iBelieve can be that support system.”
The Engaged Scholars logo accompanies stories that feature and examine research and teaching partnerships formed between The Ohio State University and the community (local, state, national and global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources. These stories spring from a partnership with OSU’s Office of Outreach and Engagement. The Lantern retains sole editorial control over the selection, writing and editing of these stories.