Several times during her years in high school in Cincinnati, Ohio, Zaire Sims and her family were homeless, leaving Zaire with no idea as to how she could afford college. Zaire’s dream of attending college came closer to reality when a science teacher her freshman year took notice of her good grades, effort, and willingness to learn. The teacher recommended that Zaire speak with her school’s college counselor, who told Zaire about the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Young Scholars Program or YSP.
Founded in 1988, the Young Scholars Program improves pre-college preparation, retention, and degree completion among high-ability academically gifted first-generation students with financial need from nine of the largest urban school districts in Ohio: Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Lorain, Toledo, and Youngstown. Once selected, scholars agree to complete a college preparatory curriculum in middle and high school to build a solid foundation for college studies. Scholars in good standing upon high school graduation receive an appropriate financial aid package consisting of scholarships and federal grants to cover their tuition and room and board at Ohio State.
“YSP made it real for me because before, I had no clue how I was going to pay for college. I’m very thankful for YSP because it gave me a chance to go to college away from home and to get an education from one of the best public universities in the nation.”
During her pre-collegiate years, YSP provided Zaire with numerous workshops that helped her prepare for college, including tutoring and personal professional development workshops. The summer before her senior year of high school, Zaire participated in the Samuel Dubois Cook Summer Academy. During the academy, Young Scholars participate in a variety of academic activities that help them feel more familiar with collegiate life as well as providing Scholars with the opportunity for career exploration by working with various colleges and departments at Ohio State and the community. “This two week program helped me adjust to my first time being on campus. We had writing and math courses so we could develop the necessary skills that we would need in college. It gave me a new way of thinking, and it helped my social skills,” she stated.
Zaire also participated in the Young Scholars College Success Program that helped with her transition from high school to Ohio State. The program includes a three-week Summer Bridge Program, holistic success coaching, peer mentoring, study skills enrichment, scholarship services and post-baccalaureate preparation. Zaire got a taste of how her university classes would be, participated in a research competition, and built connections with 50 other people who were in her YSP cohort. Once she started classes, the support continued: “The YSP staff has been there for me since the first day of the summer program. They were there to be a listening ear to my venting, and they gave me study skills that made me be able to say that I have never failed a class at Ohio State. YSP is like my family away from home.”
Participating in YSP’s Summer Academy and the College Success Program made Zaire want to pay forward all the assistance that she received. “I wanted to be on the other side and help with the college knowledge and transition, so I became a Peer Success Leader and Academic Success Partner.” Her participation also helped Zaire develop her leadership skills and led to her being offered two jobs in different leadership roles within YSP.
Currently a junior at Ohio State, Zaire is majoring in Social Work with a minor in African American and African Studies. She chose that major because during the few times she and her family were without a home, the three women who helped Zaire and her family inspired her to be a helping hand for someone else. She also decided to pursue a minor in AAAS because in high school, Zaire took an African American history class, and it got her curious to learn more about her African American heritage and Africa.
Zaire hopes to graduate in May 2017 and plans to work with the elderly around Columbus because it is a population that needs assistance. “The aging community is a growing population, and there aren’t that many people interested in working with them.” Zaire intends on attending graduate school to get her master’s in social work and is currently exploring graduate school options.
To date, the Young Scholars Program has supported more than 3,000 pre-collegiate (grades 8th through 12th) and collegiate (college undergraduates) scholars, providing them with comprehensive academic, career, and personal development programs in partnership with school district administrators and staff; Ohio State faculty, staff, students, and alumni; and community and corporate partners. If you’d like to support the Young Scholars Program, please click here.