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Leadership academy helps high school students prepare for college experience

Potential Buckeyes are getting a look at the future of college thanks to a new initiative at The Ohio State University.

The Buckeye Student Leadership Academy finished its inaugural session this week on the Columbus campus. The four-day program is a series of workshops, preparation sessions and college-like experiences for 125 Ohio high school students headed into their senior year.

“This has been a really great experience so far. It’s given me a good idea of what to prepare for and what to expect,” said Madison Gillotte, a student at Saint Clairsville High School.

The program is for high-achieving students who are the first in their families to attend college and/or from rural parts of the state or underserved minority communities.

The diversity of the class was something that appealed to Ose Arheghan. Arheghan attends Shaker Heights High School and hopes to attend a college on a more open and progressive campus.

“I really appreciate the fact that (BSLA) is bringing together kids who have different experiences. I really like the fact that I can be with people who share my experiences and identity but also meet people who have wildly different experiences,” she said.

Students in the program take classes in goal-setting and time management. They learn about the college admission process and sleep and eat on campus. The experience included a talent show and a trip to a local theater to see Wonder Woman.

President Drake addresses BSLA students 

Students attending the academy are not required to attend Ohio State, nor are they guaranteed admission to the Columbus campus. But it will prepare them should they hope to become future Buckeyes.

“Our goal is to bring Ohioans to the university so they can experience leadership, start to learn about themselves and start to prepare for the admissions process,” said Khadijah Jones, senior assistant director for outreach and recruitment in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

“My work focuses on access and diversity so I know that we’ve identified students that we wouldn’t have reached otherwise,” Jones said.

Kaleab Jegol, from William Mason High School, said the experience with BSLA changed his mind about Ohio State. He was considering applying to schools on the East Coast, but Ohio State is now in his top five.

At one session this week, President Michael V. Drake spoke to the students about the opportunity college presents as students begin the journey to becoming adults.

“It’s wonderful for you to come in as a young person and leave as a young person. But you are a young person with more focus, with more ideas and more experiences. With a strong foundation and a better footing to go into the world and create a life,” he said.

Drake also encouraged the students to experience life at the edge of their comfort zone. It’s a message that resonated with Gillotte, who was initially concerned about fitting in at a school the size of Ohio State.

“If it doesn’t scare you, you probably don’t care enough about it,” Gillotte said.