08:24 AM

Ohio State program offers seniors tuition voucher for community service

A new pilot program at The Ohio State University will allow community volunteers to turn their service into college credit.

Ohio State President Michael V. Drake and John Carey, chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education, announced the university is joining the state’s GIVE back. GO forward program. The program promotes community service among Ohioans 60 years or older by offering the opportunity to earn a college tuition voucher.

“We are a modern land-grant university and our goal has always been affordable, accessible and excellent education,” Drake said. “This new program advances our founding mission while further connecting the university to the fabric of our community.”

Here’s how it works: Ohio seniors who are enrolled in GIVE back. GO forward complete 100 or more community service hours at one of three area non-profits. They then earn a voucher for three free undergraduate credit hours at Ohio State. Volunteers have a year to complete their service hours.

“Ohio State’s commitment to community involvement is well known,” Carey said. “It all starts with the university’s motto: Education Through Citizenship.”

Up to 100 Franklin County residents can enroll in the program each year. They can choose to support either the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Mid-Ohio Foodbank or St. Stephen’s Community House.

Mid-Ohio Foodbank CEO Matt Habash said volunteers are critical to helping the organization feed those in need in central Ohio.

“Hunger is a very complex problem and requires a comprehensive solution,” Habash said. “We each have a role to play and this is a great example of coming together for the benefit of all involved.”

Seniors can use the voucher for themselves or donate it to another Ohio resident. Michelle Mills, CEO of St. Stephens, said those who donate their voucher can help the next generation of students.

“This provides a wonderful opportunity for our senior citizens to give back in their time and to provide educational opportunities should they desire to issue their vouchers to other students,” Mills said.

The Columbus Metropolitan Library uses volunteers to act as a sounding board for children learning to read or in their homework help centers. Alison Circle, chief customer experience officer for the library, said even the best staff at the library can’t serve all of their needs and that volunteers are critical.

“I’m pretty confident we have the best staff found anywhere, but the need in this community is so great, even the best staff can’t deliver a thriving community where wisdom prevails,” Circle said. “That relies on an entire community of volunteers who help lift the work we do and deliver on that promise.”

To learn more or to sign up, visit the GIVE back. GO forward website.