FAN student tackles life’s challenges to attend Ohio State

Ricardo Washington, a Black man, kneels in a scarlet Ohio State shirt.

FAN student tackles life’s challenges to attend Ohio State

By Paige Galperin

Growing up in Philadelphia, Ricardo Washington always dreamed of attending The Ohio State University.

“I used to watch football with my older brother, and he's a big Buckeyes fan. I would sit there and watch, and Ohio State just grew on me,” Washington said. “I would always tell my brother, ‘I'm going to graduate from Ohio State,' and that's been my goal ever since.”

Washington's path to becoming a Buckeye has been far from easy, though. Born to absent parents, he was adopted by his grandmother, who died when Washington was thirteen. “Since then, I've been on my own, and I bounced around between a lot of family members,” Washington noted.

A passionate football player, Washington originally attended Wesley College in Delaware as a wide receiver. However, when Wesley merged with Delaware State University in 2021, it cut its football program, leaving him without a team .

Washington then transferred to Ohio Dominican University, where a coach helped him secure a spot on the football team. He played a season for the Panthers, but when his beloved coach left the university, Washington found himself in limbo once again.

“I wanted to go to Ohio State, but I didn't have the grades for it,” Washington explained. Instead, he transferred to Columbus State Community College, where he studied relentlessly to improve his GPA. His efforts paid off, and this autumn, Washington will attend Ohio State as a third-year sports industry major through ODI's newest program: the Fostering Achievement Network (FAN).

“I am incredibly excited that Ohio State's Columbus campus received the Ohio Reach post-secondary designation, recognizing us as a higher education institution dedicated to helping students with lived experience in foster care, kinship care, and other out-of-home placements,” stated Chaka Wilson, FAN program manager. “We have revitalized FAN with this designation and leadership support.”

Inspired by a student organization started by an Ohio State former foster youth, FAN helps students with foster care backgrounds navigate the world of higher education. The program provides mentorship opportunities, success coaching, social engagement experiences, monthly workshops, and career and leadership development.

A trained intern through the iFoster Transition-Age Youth AmeriCorps program, Adam Hassan serves as FAN's peer resource navigator. He feels the program meets a critical need in the Buckeye community.

“This program bridges the gap between individuals and the resources they need, addressing disparities and providing a path to success for those who might otherwise struggle due to their past and circumstances,” Hassan commented. “My role involves guiding people through the process of accessing support systems that can help to drastically change their lives.”

Washington certainly hopes the program will have such an impact on him. As he tries out as a walk-on for the Ohio State football team while finishing his education, Washington hopes FAN will help him end his college career on a high note.

“I'm looking forward to the FAN activities and events, the tutors and mentors to help me be successful, and to getting my degree because I'm getting a degree from The Ohio State University, a Big Ten school, and that means a lot. I'm also a first-generation college student, so it will mean a lot to me personally,” Washington said. “By going to Ohio State, I believe the people around me will shape me into who I really want to be.”