Tuition Waiver Program with a Twist Launched at YSU

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education and director of the Ohio Department of Aging launched a tuition waiver program Monday believed the first of its kind in the country, certainly in the state of Ohio, at Youngstown State University.

Called “GIVEback. GOforward,” the pilot program is recruiting Mahoning Valley residents ages 60 and older to volunteer as mentors and tutors to children in three programs, Success By 6, Success After 6 and Inspiring Minds.

The first two are administered by United Way of Youngstown;  the Mahoning Valley. Inspiring Minds, founded in Warren in 2006, just opened a chapter in Youngstown.

Chancellor John Carey and Aging Director Bonnie K. Burman introduced GiveBack in a packed YSU Trustees meeting room with YSU President Jim Tressel, Eastern Gateway Community College President Jimmie Bruce, United Way President Bob Hannon, the founder of Inspiring Minds, Deryck Toles, the director of its Youngstown chapter, Simon Arias, and the president and CEO of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, Tom Humphries.

Said Burman, “This Youngstown, Ohio, Mahoning Valley area is representing the future of our country.”

Volunteers 60 and older who give back will allow students who attend YSU or Eastern Gateway to go forward, said Burman in explaining the name. As Tressel noted, 80% of the students who attend YSU work so they can afford the tuition, so the credit waivers should allow them to borrow less in student loans.

Here’s how GiveBack is designed to work: Anyone 60 or older who works with the United Way or Inspiring Minds and is credited with giving 100 or more hours of his time between yesterday and next May 31 will receive a tuition waiver good for three credit hours at either YSU or Eastern Gateway. The volunteer, who must reside in either Mahoning or Trumbull County, can use the waiver to take a class for academic credit or award it to the recipient of his choice.

The recipient must be a resident of Ohio and take advantage of the waiver within five years of its award to a volunteer.

YSU and the community college will each provide 50 tuition waivers for GiveBack. The waivers will not come from existing scholarship dollars, Tressel and Burman emphasized.

Should a volunteer be credited with 200 or more hours of service, he can earn a waiver of six hours of academic credit, Burman said, but six hours is the cap. GiveBack “is open to 100 volunteers in its first year,” the director of Aging said.

The first three to sign up are Elsie Dursie, retired executive director of the Mahoning Valley Council of Churches, Pat Negro, a retired medical records technician at the Youngstown Developmental Center, and Ann Marie Hiznay, who retired after 20 years as a teacher in Austintown schools and 20 more as director of education for the Austintown system.

“We already have seven to 10 [more] volunteers who have expressed interest,” Hannon related.

Carey and Burman expect the initiative in Youngstown will prove successful and serve as a model for others elsewhere in the state to replicate.

They brought with them Gov. John Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor’s proclamation, signed Monday, which set forth the initiative that involves their departments working with YSU, Eastern Gateway, the United Way and Inspiring Minds.

In preparing for the press event, Hannon said he “reached out to the Retired Teachers Association [of Mahoning County].” He expects most of the volunteers will come from its ranks and those of its counterpart in Trumbull County. “There can be other volunteers,” Hannon said. “We want to recruit others.”

The staffs of United Way and Inspiring Minds will submit reports of the hours the older residents spend as mentors and tutors, then forward their monthly reports to the Mature Services Inc., a nonprofit agency contracted by the Department of Aging to track and verify those hours.

The speakers – Carey, Burman, Tressel, Bruce, Humphries, Toles and Arias – all expressed high hopes for GiveBack and how much the volunteers might contribute.

Humphries, active in the birth of GiveBack, praised the role of United Way in reaching out to those over 60. “One issue was to get everyone on [the same] page. Now it’s about getting everyone together to make things happen.”

Toles, reared by his grandmother, said, “My grandmother is 74 or 75 and she has more energy than I do” in expressing the vigor he expects the older residents will bring to the children Inspiring Minds helps.

Burman cited the assets older residents might bring as mentors and tutors. “Our elders grew up in a time when soft skills really mattered,” such as engaging in civility and having good manners.

And while the children will benefit, she said, so will the adults. Not only are the volunteers older than 60, they’ll remain healthy – keep their youth – working with children from pre-kindergarten through high school.

The United Way Success by 6 is a pre-kindergarten readiness program held each summer that focuses on academic success for four- and five-year-olds about to enter kindergarten.

Success After 6, new this year, focuses on participants’ success in kindergarten through sixth grade by improving their academic achievement, behavior and motivation to stay in school.

Inspiring Minds offers after-school and summer academic and sports programs to encourage students to stay in school and graduate. Among other things, it takes students on field trips and sends them to visit colleges. More than 2,000 have participated in after-school and summer enrichment programs since 2006, its website says.

Pictured: Jimmie Bruce, president of Eastern Gateway Community College, Bonnie K. Burman, director of the Ohio Department of Aging, and John Carey, Ohio chancellor.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.