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Student nonprofit seeks to share stories of underrepresented students

Founder of Faces of Access DaVonti’ Haynes (front) is pictured with fellow Ohio State graduates Zaid Hightower, Joe Ingram III, Faces of Access’ Strategic Communication Manager Raven Lynch, Content & Brand Ambassador LeRoy Ricksy Jr., and KayMesha Knox. | Photo credit: DaVonti’ Haynes

A nonprofit organization and social movement started by Ohio State students seeks to share stories of students who come from underrepresented communities with the goal of motivating people to pursue success.

Faces of Access consists of a platform on which people can submit their stories, a blog regarding college access and applications and a K-12 outreach program, DaVonti’ Haynes, founder of Faces of Access and a Ph.D. student in agricultural communication, education and leadership, said.

“[The organization] is really dedicated to being that light on those college graduates and college students who come from marginalized backgrounds — underrepresented and underserved students,” Haynes said.

The platform is intended to share stories of success in overcoming adversity for people of every race and geographical background, he said.

Haynes said that he was inspired to create this platform from his own experience, as he made the jump from an urban education to college and lacked the resources that make for a smooth transition.

Faces of Access was founded by Ohio State students seeking to create a platform to inspire minority students to succeed. | Photo credit: DaVonti’ Haynes

After reflecting on his own struggles, Haynes formed the Faces of Access community with fellow students. Raven Lynch, who met Haynes when they worked together in the Ohio State Department of Social Change, is the strategic communication manager of Faces of Access.

Lynch, a Ph.D. student in social work, comes from a rural Appalachian area and said the mission of Faces of Access resonated with her because a core cultural aspect of her geographic home is storytelling.

“That’s what I love about Faces of Access: it’s just sharing stories and seeing people that look like you that are succeeding,” Lynch said. “I feel like it’s one of the most motivating things for other students to believe that they can do this too, and it was one of the things that helped me transitioning into college.”

Although the organization began through connections made at Ohio State, Faces of Access is looking to reach people outside of the university and Ohio, Haynes said.

“Ohio kind of dominated at the beginning, but now we are starting to get that traction outside of Ohio, which is great,” Haynes said.

Faces of Access, which officially became a nonprofit in 2018, is launching a high school program called Pathways in two schools, which brings a four-year curriculum that helps students understand their different options beyond high school education, Haynes said. These options could include a four-year college, a two-year college, military service or trade school.

Haynes also said there have been conversations with universities and school districts outside of Ohio to expand the Pathways program across the country.

Lynch said that the overall message of the organization is to show that everyone has struggles — especially minority students — but sharing those challenges can be inspiring to others.

“A lot of the times when we see someone succeed, we don’t hear about their struggles, and then they look like an anomaly,” Lynch said. “I think that Faces of Access is a chance to be authentic and transparent with those struggles to normalize the experience of struggling and help minority students recognize that not everyone that looks like you that succeeds is an anomaly.”

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