A group of Pass the Class volunteers with their mentees at Franklin Manor. Credit: Courtesy of Tanish Gandhi

The efforts of a student organization to give back to the Columbus community is starting to pay off.  

Pass the Class is a nonprofit organization committed to educating at-risk youth in the Columbus area, Megan Halloran, a fourth-year in neuroscience and vice president of Pass the Class at Ohio State, said. The group is in the running among 200 organizations for the State Farm Neighborhood Assist — a $25,000 grant to assist the community.  

The program began taking applications in July and the first 2,000 applicants were accepted, according to State Farm’s website. The State Farm Review Committee then narrowed down submissions to just 200 organizations, and Pass the Class made it on the list.

Tanish Gandhi, a third-year in biomedical science and the community outreach chair of Pass the Class, said in an email that the top 40 finalists with the most votes from the community receive the grant. 

Halloran said Pass the Class not only helps with a student’s coursework, but teaches and encourages other life skills in “Tutor Talks.”

“Pass the Class started to initially help the youth at the Starhouse homeless drop-in center,” Halloran said. “We worked with 14- to 24-year-olds who are homeless and started tutoring for anything, like their ACT or applying for college.”

Before COVID-19, Gandhi said Ohio State students went to sessions every weekday. Each of those tutoring sessions lasted around an hour and a half and are now hosted through Zoom meetings. 

In just two years, the club has grown to about 90 members and partners with several places around Columbus, including Franklin Manor, a subsidized government housing complex, Halloran said. Pass the Class has even reached out to other universities to continue their mission.

“We opened branches at Virginia Commonwealth University, Johns Hopkins (University), Vanderbilt (University) and University of Maryland,” Halloran said. “So same mission in those places too — trying to help the underprivileged youth in those areas using college students as tutors.”

Gandhi said last semester the group held a healthy eating and wellness discussion with students.

“The activities we did were really cool to interact with them, and get them to think about different things they can do to manage stress,” Gandhi said.

Activities included showing students how to prepare after-school snacks, what kind of fruits and vegetables to put in their smoothies, and meditation, Gandhi said.

If it receives the grant, Pass the Class plans to use the money on a community garden within Franklin Manor to promote healthy eating, which could have real applications for the classroom, Gandhi said. 

“We can use it for math, geometry, area, perimeter, science,” Halloran said. “It’s to help them all-around.” 

Now that Pass the Class is expanding to different colleges, some funds will be allocated to hiring a full-time employee to run all the branches at all schools since it is currently run solely by undergraduate students, Halloran said. 

To help Pass the Class reach its goals and continue its support of the Columbus community, you can vote at https://www.neighborhoodassist.com.

Voting is open until Oct. 2, and each student can vote up to 10 times a day. 

“Our mission is just to help mentor and tutor at-risk and homeless youth in Columbus, and expand to around the country,” Halloran said.