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Mentor-A-Buckeye Helps High Schoolers Aim For College And Beyond

Office of Student Life / Ohio State University
Students from Whetstone High School get free cooking lessons as part of the Mentor-A-Buckeye program.

Even if high schoolers have the grades to get to college, they might not know how. That's where Mentor-A-Buckeye comes in.

Three Ohio State students are reaching back to help students unsure about whether they have a college future. WOSU's Debbie Holmes spoke to two of the founders about their program.    

The below is an automated transcript. Please excuse minor typos and errors.

Debbie Holmes: With me to talk about the Mentor-A-Buckeye program is OSU grad student DaVonti' Haynes and OSU junior Commodore Williams. Thanks for being here.
So you both, and one other of your fellow students, helped to create the program Mentor-A-Buckeye and I understand it's in its third year now. DaVonti’, you graduated from Cleveland Public Schools and you said you had a hard time in school, that it was tough to decide to go to college and to, I guess, have those proper role models. Was that one of the reasons behind your idea of this program?
DaVonti’ Haynes: Yes, so I wouldn't say tough to decide to go to college, but navigating that process and learning how to do it and seeing people like you who went through that experience.

Debbie Holmes: And so what is your thought then behind this program, how do you think this will help?

DaVonti’ Haynes: I think it gives students motivation. It shows people who look like them who have made it out of similar situations, that are now in college, but then it also gives them someone that they can talk to help them navigate the collegiate process of how to apply when you're looking at financial aid.

Because a lot of these students come from families that have never went to college, so that they don't have parents that they can talk to about navigating that process or how to form their application essay and things like that.

Debbie Holmes: So how exactly then does this work then? One student from Ohio State then teams up with a high school student?

Commodore Williams: One student from Ohio State teams with a high school student but they also have a member of the community who's established in their career and that acts as the community leader mentor for the student, as well for the high school student and the college student.

Credit Andrew Bruening/Ohio State University Office of Student Life
Members of the Mentor-A-Buckeye program gathered for a luncheon at The Ohio State University in Columbus on Wednesday, March 23, 2016.

Debbie Holmes: All right. So Commodore, tell us about your background and why you decided this was a good idea and why you wanted to put this program together.

Commodore Williams: Yes, so in coming to college I always knew that college was going to be the next step for me after high school. It was just that path that I was on. I didn't really have any role models to look up to necessarily. It was just the track that I was on given my financial situation, where I was from.

But I know that I wouldn't have been able to navigate the application process without my parents. And so coming here and working in the communities surrounding Columbus and with our students, I've seen that they don't necessarily have the same support system and that same ease of that access to knowledge and resources. And so to be able to provide that and at least help along that journey is, I think, very necessary for the work that we do.

Debbie Holmes: So I understand, Commodore, that you were from somewhat of a privileged background, I would guess. You weren't from an inner city, impoverished area. So how do you connect with the students then that are from difficult backgrounds?

Commodore Williams: Yes well, I think that kids are kids and people are people. And my mentor Anthony and I connected through music, through just the people that we are, we're very similar students. And so some of the problems that he's faced in school I've also faced in school.

It's more than just, you know, your family situation or your financial situation. School is school and you can come through the same obstacles I think no matter where you are, and so it's been now three years that I've spent with him. And so we have a lot of a lot of history now and we've grown throughout these years much closer than I thought that we would have started.

Debbie Holmes: So what exactly do you do then together? 

Commodore Williams: I bring Anthony to campus and we'll go study in the Thompson library or something like that. He loves Ohio State and so I'll bring him up when I can and pick him up or we'll take him out to go get food with our community mentor. And we'll get dinner and talk about how his grades are doing or how his family is doing, and just if he wants any help with anything, if he needs something, anything that we can bring him.

Debbie Holmes: And DaVonti’?

DaVonti’ Haynes: Through the program we track the student's grades and behavior and then we also just see how they develop personally and through leadership opportunities. So in addition to the opportunities that the students get with their mentors one on one, the office of student life also provides them with different experiential learning opportunities. So they have gotten to go to the State of the City address.

We also do fun opportunities, so we went to Sky Zone as a group. We do cookouts as a group.

Debbie Holmes: Well thank you so much. I've been talking with OSU grad student DaVonti’ Haynes and also OSU Junior Commodore Williams about the Mentor-A-Buckeye program. Thanks so much for joining me.

Commodore Williams: Thank you.

DaVonti’ Haynes: Thank you.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.