Ohio University is one of several institutions of higher education around the state awarded an OhioCorps Pilot Grant by the Ohio Department of Education to support at-risk secondary students in Southeast Ohio.
The University will be funded $499,986 to support these students and provide them with guidance and positive role models into higher education.
“I’m pleased that we are able to award this funding to five public universities that have plans in place to serve at-risk students in their region,” said Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner. “Every student deserves the opportunity to succeed, and the OhioCorps Pilot Program Grant will help ensure that the students served by this program will get the support they need to achieve their goals.”
The University’s grant project, OHIO MENTOR (Mentoring, Engaging, Nurturing, and Teaching for Opioid Resistance) will serve students in eight counties across southeast Ohio through targeted mentoring and service learning activities.
This focused, regional approach will encompass OHIO’s five regional campuses and two of its colleges, and it will enlist a cadre of undergraduate and graduate OHIO students as mentors.
These mentors will be pre-service teachers, nurses, social workers, counselors, human services employees and others who are the future workforce in rural and Appalachian communities impacted by the opioid crisis.
OHIO MENTOR, a two-year program, will serve 140 freshmen and sophomores from 11 targeted high schools through mentoring and summer experiences facilitated by 28 mentors in year one and 42 mentors in year two. The project will be under the direction of Joy Shytle, Field Liaison and Lecturer of Social Work at the Southern Campus. Each of the University’s internal partners will guided by faculty and staff with extensive experience across disciplines, to create a responsive, targeted effort to best serve the at-risk students.
“Ohio University is extremely honored to have the support of the Ohio Department of Higher Education through the OhioCorps Pilot Grant,” said OHIO President M. Duane Nellis. “Our passionate students will be wonderful, engaged mentors to our regional teenagers. OHIO aims to become a positive catalyst of economic and quality of life change for Appalachia and this project will help support that goal.”
OHIO regional campuses participating in the program include its Chillicothe, Zanesville, Eastern, Lancaster and Southern campuses.
“The reach of our pilot project in the southeast region will have a tremendous impact on communities hardest hit by the opioid epidemic,” said OHIO Southern Dean and Interim Dean for Regional Higher Education Nicole Pennington. “The high school and university students in our OHIO MENTOR project will benefit from mentorship and service learning as the region continues to overcome challenges stemming from the opioid epidemic. This initiative will provide Ohio University and the regional campuses with resources to support southeast Ohio students in a meaningful way.”
Mentees of OHIO MENTOR will engage in mentoring activities such as tutoring, college pathway exploration, soft skill development, career exploration and opioid and drug prevention education.
"OHIO MENTOR provides another vital pathway in our commitment to addressing the scourge of opiate abuse in our region and the state,” said OHIO CHSP Dean Randy Leite. "Connecting high school students within at-risk communities to university student mentors will help to expand our collective efforts to reduce opiate abuse among today’s teenagers."
OHIO’s Patton College of Education will lead the charge for mentoring at-risk students in schools across Athens County.
“We look forward to collaborating with the regional campuses and the College of Health Sciences and Professions to bolster education and help strengthen communities in our region,” said Patton College Dean Renée A. Middleton. “This grant also provides an opportunity for Patton College associate professor Lisa Harrison to continue her important work leading the development of mentoring activities for young learners with endless potential.”
OHIO MENTOR will strive to maximize resources, partnerships and human capacity to ensure success of the project so these vulnerable students will attain improved academic performance and realize higher education and future careers are possible, despite the troubling impact of opioids and poverty on Appalachia and rural Ohio. Mentees completing the program will gain eligibility for the OhioCorps scholarships to be offered by ODHE.
Other universities receiving a share of the OhioCorps Pilot Grant include Cleveland State University, Kent State University, Shawnee State University and Youngstown State University.