‘Give Back, Go Forward’ Awards First Tuition Voucher

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Michael Kacir of Lowellville, a second-semester freshman at Youngstown State University, received a boost for his efforts to become the third generation of his family to graduate from YSU, courtesy of his grandmother.

Paula Kacir, also from Lowellville, is the first volunteer to achieve 100 volunteer hours in Give Back, Go Forward, receiving financial credit for three hours of tuition. Kacir gave the voucher to her grandson pursing a degree in civil engineering.

Both Kacirs were on hand for a press event at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor Friday morning to mark the elder Kacir’s milestone.

The program encourages individuals ages 60 and older to volunteer in one of three programs: Success By 6 and Success After 6, both operated by the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, or Inspiring Minds. Once the volunteer is credited with hours, he receives the tuition waiver that he can use himself or give a student at YSU or Eastern Gateway Community College.

“Grandmother Paula was the person that rolled up her sleeves and decided that she was going to make a difference in our community and help her grandson,” YSU President Jim Tressel said. “That’s what really the program is all about, seeing if we can help every part of the community.”

The Ohio Department of Higher Education, the state Department of Aging and the office of Gov. John Kasich felt “a need to bridge generations” and to provide more affordable options to pay for higher education, said Amanda Maxwell, spokeswoman for the higher education office. The Mahoning Valley also has “a population of volunteers” over the age of 60, she noted.

The governor is “very interested” in the Mahoning Valley and has several initiatives going on here, and the leadership of Tressel and former and present Eastern Gateway presidents Laura Meeks and Jimmie Bruce were key to making the program happen, Ohio Chancellor John Carey said. Tom Humphries, president and CEO of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber and a member of the Ohio Board of Regents, is “also a resource we had on the ground,” he said.

After seeing a newspaper article about the program, launched last Aug. 3, the Lowellville grandmother contacted the United Way office, said Kathy Mock, United Way director of education and initiatives. By Aug. 6, the retired early childhood educator was volunteering for Success By 6 and subsequently transitioned into Success After 6. “She was all in,” Mock said.

Early childhood education “has been my passion,” an emotional Kacir remarked.

Give Back, Go Forward is “part of a new trend” of intergenerational mentoring that is taking root, Mock said.

“Volunteerism can be a two-way street. It provides renewed purpose and social interaction for seniors and a fresh perspective for youth in our community,” she said. “Paula’s commitment to the young children’s success in our community is a true example of how our elders can use their talents and passion to positively impact others.”

“It’s so rewarding. I’d like to see a whole lot more seniors in this program,” Kacir said.

About 20 seniors are participating and several have put in more than 50 hours, Maxwell said. The number of people actively in the program varies because many retirees spent the winter months in Florida.

“We have one snowbird that’s over 70 hours, so we’re waiting for her to come back,” she remarked.

Carey thanked both YSU and Eastern Gateway “for being kind of groundbreaking.” Now his department will take what was learned here and replicate it statewide.

“It’s going to be different in each community, so what we’ll do is we’ll take information, what we’ve learned and are learning from this program, and share it with other institutions,” he said. “This is something that YSU and Eastern Gateway were willing to be a part of and now that we have the model we can approach others or they can approach us about replicating it.”

Pictured: Sister Patricia McNicholas, representing Eastern Gateway Community College, Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor John Carey, Paula Kacir and her grandson Michael, and YSUy President Jim Tressel mark Paula Kacir receiving the state’s first Give Back, Go Forward education voucher.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.