By Denise Dick
Those who have completed the program say it helped them achieve career goals. Students enrolled believe it’s changed their lives for the better and those about to begin look forward to the opportunities the program will afford them.
The Ohio State University Young Scholars Program started in Youngstown 26 years ago, offering scholarships to first-generation students from the city. More than 210 students have taken advantage of the offerings.
“It changed my expectations for myself — for the trajectory of my life,” said Cametreus Clardy, a senior at OSU who graduated in 2011 from East High School.
He’s majoring in special education.
Clardy knew growing up that he was supposed to work hard in school and go to college, but he didn’t understand why.
“It didn’t come naturally to me at first,” he said.
When he first became a Young Scholar, it began to crystallize with the help of the people involved.
“I had the opportunity to go to Ohio State and I didn’t have to be good at football,” Clardy said. “I didn’t have to be a doctor of a lawyer. There were a lot of opportunities if you work hard.”
Students apply to be Young Scholars while in middle school, usually at the suggestion of a teacher. They must have good grades, be enrolled in a college preparatory program, be first-generation college students and meet income requirements. Many are from minority or under-represented groups.
To be accepted, they secure a teacher’s recommendation and complete an interview. They must maintain a 3.3 GPA throughout school, although that’s going to increase to 3.5 for future classes, and attend after-school enrichment and academic workshops.
Students who do all of that are eligible for up to five years of full tuition, room and board at OSU. Individual scholarship amounts are based on merit and need.
It’s not easy, but students — past, present and future — say it’s worth it.
James Copeland, a 2014 Youngstown Early College graduate, plans to study landscape design and management.
He’s always been a strong student, but he had to learn to balance the requirements of the program with his job at a landscaping company, homework and his commitments at church.
Brea Berry, a senior at Cardinal Mooney High School, plans to study psychiatric nursing. She also had to work hard to keep her grades up while managing all of the other demands of school and home life.
Akeera Mitchell, also a 2014 YEC graduate, plans to study nursing at OSU this fall. School has always come easily to her, and she recognized the opportunity YSP provided, so maintaining her grades and meeting the requirements wasn’t much of a struggle. Her mother’s encouragement helped, too.
When she attended the Summer Academy last year, a program that requires YSP students to live in OSU dorms and take classes to get the college experience, though, Mitchell couldn’t bring her 5-month-old daughter.
“I had to leave her,” she said. “That was hard.”
The child, now 11/2, will live with Mitchell in student housing for single mothers and their children that she secured through YSP. The housing program also provides support, including day care if required. The toddler’s father also plans to relocate to Columbus.
Without the program, Clardy says he wouldn’t have been able to afford to attend OSU.
“With the Young Scholars Program, they say iron sharpens iron and I’ve been able to meet other students from inner cities across the state,” he said.
The students first meet during the Summer Academy, staying in the dorms, attending classes and getting a feel for college.
Tiffany Quinones, the program coordinator, said the scholars are a close-knit who support and rely on each other like family.
JaQualia Leonard, a 2007 graduate of the former Woodrow Wilson High School, attended OSU as a Young Scholar, going on to earn her master’s degree. She works in Pataskala, Ohio, as a nursing home administrator.
Through the program, she completed an internship with the National Institutes of Health and says she took advantage of the opportunities the program offered her.
“They taught us well and put good people in our path,” Leonard said.
She got exposed to new possibilities for what her life could be.
Janeen Shackleford of Youngstown, a 1994 graduate of The Rayen School and a 1999 graduate of OSU, earning her degree in food business management and agribusiness. She’s been in the food manufacturing business for 16 years and she loves it.
If it weren’t for YSP, she likely would have attended Youngstown State University, but that school doesn’t have the program she studied. Before she went to OSU, she didn’t even know about the profession.
She started out majoring in computer science, but after struggling for a couple of semesters, she took an assessment. Food business management was one of the suggested career paths.
Alexis Myers, a sophomore at OSU and a 2013 YEC graduate, credits the program not only with funding her education, but with allowing her to discover more about what she wants to do. She’s majoring in English, but she’s been able to take some courses in public affairs and discover she has a passion for public problems and working to change things.
Joe Ingram III, an OSU sophomore who also graduating from YEC in 2013, is majoring in education and physical activity specialist. Initially, he was studying architecture but decided the field doesn’t interest him.
Being in YSP helped him meet and make friends with others in the program even before the start of classes. Through those contacts, he was able to become involved on campus.
“People who are involved on campus are more successful and you have those opportunities with YSP,” Ingram said.
Adjusting to the huge OSU campus took some doing.
Melvin Gregory, an OSU sophomore, majoring in physical education who graduated in 2013 from Youngstown Christian School, didn’t leave his dormitory room the first day he was on campus.
“It was just a culture shock,” he said. “There were so many people.”
Ingram and Gregory are forming a new organization on campus, called Men with Purpose. The mentoring program helps other young people from under-represented groups make life transitions, particularly that from high school to college.
Mitchell said YSP provides a constant for students who otherwise lack it. The obligations of the program provide consistency and students already enrolled at OSU are like older cousins.
“We’re like family,” she said.