Meet LaRazia Tolbert, Ohio State Young Scholar

LaRazia TolbertThe neighborhood in Youngstown where LaRazia grew up wasn’t the kind of place, she says, where people wanted to stay or come back to. “Where I’m from, no one says they want to return; everyone is trying to escape with no looking back.” But LaRazia looks at her community from a different perspective: she, too, wants to leave but only so that she can return and bring back what she has learned and better where she is from.

When LaRazia entered the Young Scholars Program in sixth grade at Youngstown’s W. H. McGuffey Elementary School, she found an opportunity to go to college and receive the education that she knew she would need to get where she wanted to be in her life. “My dream of going back to my community and actually trying to make it better would not be possible otherwise. My being a YSP Scholar and a future Buckeye was honestly the answer to my prayers.”

Once LaRazia began classes at The Ohio State University, all of the skills and knowledge she gained while a Young Scholar made her transition from high school student to college student “so much more easy.” All of the programming – from Junior Summer Institute to the Summer Bridge Program – played a positive role in LaRazia’s transition. Being on campus with her fellow Young Scholars – and Ohio State faculty members and staff – before the rest of the Ohio State students arrived gave her time to make connections that will last through her four years at the university. “YSP allowed for bonds and connections to be made with over 90 of my OSU’20 peers prior to the arrival of the thousands of other freshmen. I can honestly say I didn’t feel alone at all. And it wasn’t just with my peers, but staff and professors, too.”

For LaRazia, the staff within the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Young Scholars Program became like family, helping her to adjust to life on campus: “YSP is what made this place feel like home, from the laughing, talking, and fun times to even the down-to-business, study, and get-your-work-done times. It is all fun and love; that’s what made this huge transition seem like a minute, very possible thing to do, an achievable, realistic goal.” But switching from high school to college hasn’t been without its challenges. For LaRazia, her biggest hurdle was, as she puts it, “putting myself out there and socializing.” Once again, her YSP family gave her the support and advice she needed. “As usual I went back to my YSP family who helped me to open up. I was encouraged by both my peers and mentors to explore and find some way to get involved. Once I took their advice, it was like a walk in the park. Now I am involved in various student organizations here on campus, and I have made even more connections.”

Although she is just in her first year at Ohio State, LaRazia has already declared her major: she will have a double major in Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies and in Sociology. She is also planning on minoring in Dance. Criminal Justice is something that LaRazia has been interested in since she was a child. “Ever since I was a little girl, I had an inkling for crime. I just loved watching shows like Law & Order: SVU, NCIS, and Burn Notice. I also loved mysteries and trying to solve them; I was always reading some book that had some form of mystery within it.” It wasn’t until she came to Ohio State and took an introduction to Sociology course that LaRazia realized how interested she was in that subject as well. “Luckily, Sociology and Criminology go hand-in-hand with each other. Having both as a major will be very beneficial to my future plans.” As for the minor in dance, in high school, LaRazia took dance for four years, and she’s always had a strong passion for the arts, having played the saxophone for the past nine years.

Once she graduates, LaRazia is not sure what she will do, although she has definite ideas on what she would like to do. “My plans after graduation are not fully determined just yet. Considering all of the things that are currently going on in the world, especially in the criminal justice field, part of me would like to enter the work force right away as a special agent or detective. I’m also looking to attend graduate school as well and receive my master’s degree.” As if that weren’t enough options, LaRazia says there is always the idea of law school, although she admits that over the years, she’s realized that she wants to be in the field more than in the courtroom. “I’d much rather prefer to solve the case and catch the criminals as opposed to defending them or anything of that nature. I guess you could say, in a way, I want to be a part of the action, for lack of a better phrase.”

Regardless of what path LaRazia takes, she will certainly leave her mark.