Letter to the editor:
I remember the exact moment I chose Ohio State. I was 17, accompanied by my dad, driving through campus on a rainy Friday night. March Madness seemed to have captivated everyone: Fans in jerseys lined the streets, regardless of the fact it was barely 40 degrees. This display of community commitment and prideful spirit is what propelled me to become a Buckeye. It was overwhelmingly apparent that OSU was not a place affected by apathy or complacency.
At the beginning of my sophomore year, amidst a wide array of involvement opportunities, I discovered a group of students developing an organization called Students For Education Reform, or SFER. At the time, SFER sought to educate fellow college students about the disparities in America’s public education system. We planned and coordinated events that highlighted the opportunity gap in K-12 schools that exist along racial, socioeconomic and community divides.
Over the past three years, I have had the honor of watching SFER grow into a fully functioning student organization and transform into an organizing movement. We have also attracted a diverse and passionate group of students along the way. This semester alone, SFER has held approximately 20 events, most recently, a town hall in the Linden community with partners including the NAACP, StudentsFirst and state senator Charleta Tavares.
The issue of educational inequity hits close to home for me, and because of the like-minded people I met at OSU, I was inspired to act. It is never far from my mind that in my hometown, only 9.3 percent of adults have obtained a bachelor’s degree. As college seniors, looking forward to graduation should fill us with excitement, but also a sense of continued purpose. Earning an OSU diploma is a privilege still out-of-reach for far too many students. Right here, in Columbus City Schools, the range of graduates going on to a two or four-year public college is only between 20 and 54 percent per school. These students reside within 10 minutes of one of the best universities in the U.S., yet many will never reap its benefits. This statistic is unfair to our students, our state and our nation.
OSU has a rich culture of service, philanthropy and community. With a motto like “Pay-it-Forward,” there is no better act we all can take than to pay forward our access to a world-class higher education. It is the one common thread that unites us all as Buckeyes.
If you are still a student, take the time to volunteer at a local school, participate in a campus visit day, enroll in a social justice class or attend a Students For Education Reform event. For those of us saying goodbye to OSU and beginning lives in new communities, we have the opportunity and responsibility to leave our public education system better than we found it. Whether this means voting for a school levy, attending a community meeting or maybe one day serving on our local school board, we all can, and should, act to uplift the students who will come after us. Because we attend OSU, we can credit at least one individual for transferring our dreams of higher education into reality. Therefore, as our shared Buckeye experience instills in us, we can never pay it back, but we can always pay it forward.
Outgoing president of Students for Education Reform
Fourth-year in political science and public affairs