More than Just College: MyPath’s New Name Reflects Broader Mission

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When it was founded 20 years ago, the Mahoning Valley College Access Program focused on helping first-generation college students. The organization helped with FAFSA applications, registration for the ACT and SAT, and, as students needed it, last-dollar scholarships to help cover expenses like books. 

But the shifting landscape for post-secondary education and more students looking at trade schools and the military – or even going straight into the workforce – has caused the organization to widen its focus with a new name and a wider scope of services.

On Friday, Executive Director Gerri Jenkins unveiled the organization’s new name – MyPath Mahoning Valley.

“The need for those [college] services has certainly continued over the last 20 years, but the landscape has changed. Fewer people are going directly from high school to college, some are taking a gap year,” she said. “We’re putting more sweat equity into the other pathways – career tech, military and sending them directly to the workforce.”

The new name also reflects the individualized work MyPath does in guiding students – the organization’s first contact with students is in sixth grade – to a successful career. That early, students may not know what exactly they want to do, but talking to them about their interests. When she graduated high school, or even college, Jenkins said she never could have envisioned leading a nonprofit. But having the right skills and the passion led her to MyPath.

“It’s all about showing them these careers and guiding them to the skills they need to have,” she said. “If there isn’t a machinist in your family, you probably don’t know what a machinist does every day. But if there’s a nurse, you know what that job is. If you watch “CSI,” you can have the idea to be a crime scene investigator.”

As part of that, MyPath is fostering and growing relationships with Youngstown State University, Eastern Gateway Community College and local trade schools. Those partnerships, Jenkins said, will help the organization better communicate to students in the Youngstown, Warren and Campbell school districts what careers are available and what they need to be doing in school to reach their desired field.

“We want to build better relationships with the community as a whole,” said Kevin Stringer, a MyPath board member and Warren City School District’s 21st century learning centers program manager. “We’d really like to welcome current and future supporters to the idea that we have a multitude of educational services that we provide in order to lead local high school students to success.  We’re here to guide students to success, no matter what path they take.”

In her seven years at MyPath, access provider Heather Andamasaris has seen more and more students ask about going into the trades, military or even associate’s degree programs. With the new change, it better communicates what the organization is about. It isn’t just about making sure students are ready for college any more.

“Students have so many options now, not just college. They’re more comfortable knowing that there’s more out there they can look at and pursue if college isn’t for them,” Andamasaris said. “I think we’ll be able to reach more students with this name change and have them understand that we’re more than the people who help with FAFSA or their ACT registration. We can really help them figure out their goals and what they’re going to do after high school.”

Even with the expanded suite of services, Jenkins says one of the core tenets of MyPath remains unchanged – graduating high school is a must.

“You may not do what you think you’ll do when you graduate, but we want to make sure you have the tools to be successful,” she says. 

Pictured: Gerri Jenkins, executive director of MyPath Mahoning Valley – formerly Mahoning Valley College Access Program – shows of the organization’s new name and logo.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.