Ursuline grad pays it forward with scholarship fundraiser

Youngstown native Keith Coleman values education and was taught as a teenager to give back to his community whenever possible.

Keith, who now lives in Smyrna, Ga., is a 2002 Ursuline High School graduate who went on to obtain his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Ohio State University, his master’s degree in engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in design studies at Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

He is a structural engineer for a prominent engineering company in Atlanta.

Keith, whom I’ve known since his childhood days at Rising Star Baptist Church, is well aware of the importance of education, and in 2008, he established a needs-based academic scholarship for minority students attending his high school alma mater.

“I am extremely mindful of the challenges faced by students in need of financial assistance, as I, too, was confronted with similar issues during my time at Ursuline,” Keith said.

A role model for Keith, and his twin brother, Kevin, was Otis Christian of Youngstown, a friend of the family who supported the brothers through school until his death in 2005.

“Otis was a selfless, kind and patient man,” Keith recalled. “He was always there to help and support those in need. As a little- league football coach, Otis was a father figure to plenty of young men. He taught not only the fundamentals of the game of football, but also the fundamentals of life.”

Keith said had Otis not played such a significant role in his young life, he may never have had the opportunities afforded to him as he continued his academic achievements.

So, the scholarship Keith sponsors is named after Otis.

“This scholarship is not only an opportunity to give its recipients a place in the Ursuline student body but also an opportunity to commemorate the life of a great friend,” Keith said.

In the scholarship’s inaugural year, a run-a-thon took place at Wick Park on Youngstown’s North Side and was sponsored by the Ursuline cross-country team, led by Coach George Stroia. Team members and those in Christian’s family received pledges for each lap they ran, with all proceeds going to the scholarship.

The goal was to raise at least $1,000. The Ursuline community, friends and family, however, raised more than $2,300.

Well, the Ursuline community has stepped up again, thanks to Keith’s continued efforts.

Stroia and the cross-country team have agreed to sponsor another run/walk-a-thon at 3:15 p.m. Sept. 14 at Wick Park. Participants again will be asked to make pledges in support of the scholarship.

“All are welcome to contribute,” Keith said, adding that Stroia and the cross-country team are collecting donations.

Here’s how you can participate: You can contact Keith directly at keithcoleman2@gmail.com or donate to the Otis Christian Scholarship by contacting Carolyn L. Korenic, director of the UHS Office of Alumni and Advancement, at the high school, 750 Wick Ave., Youngstown 44505. Keith said no donation is too small.

So come on out to run or walk to help a student achieve his or her dream of achieving higher education. And thanks to Keith for being the role model that would put a smile of pride on Otis’ face.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly column. Contact him at ebrown@vindy.com

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