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Roads Scholar Day connects Ohio State with Columbus community

2023 event included Weinland Park, South and West Side nonprofits

The 2023 Roads Scholar Day, held Friday by The Ohio State University Office of Outreach and Engagement, promoted the ongoing dialogue between the university and community partners throughout Columbus. The annual event connects faculty, administrators and students with social service organizations and business leaders to discuss current and future collaborations.

“It’s important to understand that it all goes back to the relationships we build,” said Ryan Schmiesing, Ohio State’s senior vice provost for external engagement. “The organizations fully understand what their needs are and can apply our expertise.”

Roads Scholar Day concluded at Ohio State's STEAM Factory in Franklinton.This year’s Roads Scholar Day visited Zora’s House, 1311 Summit St. in Weinland Park near Ohio State’s Columbus campus; Community Development for All People, 946 Parsons Ave. on the South Side; and Sanctuary Night, 1195 Sullivant Ave. on the West Side. The day concluded at Ohio State’s STEAM Factory, 400 W. Rich St. in Franklinton.

Zora’s House is a co-working and event space for women of color. The organization, named after acclaimed author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, has helped spur development in the area, said Jason Reece, Ohio State’s vice provost for urban research and community engagement.

“Weinland Park has been the focus of a lot of organizations’ efforts to revitalize this neighborhood,” he said. “Facilities like Zora’s House act as critical community centers, not just for the neighborhood but for the city as a whole.”

Zora’s House founder LC Johnson said she and her husband, Sheldon, acquired the land to build Zora’s House in 2016 through Campus Partners, a nonprofit working in the urban neighborhoods near Ohio State. Since opening its doors in 2018, Zora’s House has continued to grow and next year will move from its current 2,000-square-foot space to a 10,000-square-foot facility that is currently under construction in the same neighborhood at North Fourth Street and East Eighth Avenue.

The new facility will enable Zora’s House to expand its membership base and provide more resources to constituents, Johnson said.

“We want to ensure that they can activate their leadership, creativity, activism,” she said. “We want to make sure they have everything they need to really activate in this community.”

Community Development for All People (CD4AP) is a faith-based organization that provides after-school programs, food support and housing initiatives. The organization also provides workforce development through a variety of partnerships. 

Through a partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, CD4AP administers a career preparation program at the Residences at Career Gateway, an apartment complex at 755 E. Whittier St.  

“It’s a residential property, however there’s a workforce development space embedded in the building that is available to the community at large,” said Jordan Henderson, CD4AP’s director of housing and a graduate of Ohio State’s Knowlton School. “Anyone who completes the pre-employment boot camp is guaranteed an interview with Nationwide Children’s Hospital.”

Sanctuary Night provides a safe haven for women who face the threat of sexual exploitation, providing them with a place to rest, eat, connect and gain access to resources. Volunteers from Ohio State are key to the center’s operation, said Heather Mohrman, Sanctuary Night’s co-founder and chief strategy officer.

“We have two amazing medical students” from Ohio State who assist in various capacities, she said. “I love seeing volunteers take pride in what they do.” 

The event concluded at the STEAM Factory, which serves as a “third space” that connects Ohio State researchers with the greater Columbus community, said Charlene Brenner, STEAM Factory program director.

“Third spaces are powerful places to center community needs, community thoughts and community expertise,” she said. “Our community is really important to us.”  

For more information about future Roads Scholar Days, visit the Office of Outreach and Engagement’s website at engage.osu.edu.

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