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Early Childhood Education major finds her place at Ohio State

Matthew Urwin
July 17, 2019

College recruiters instrumental in making first-year student feel at home in Columbus

The air crackled with nervous energy.

Charged with adrenaline, Noa Katz quivered as she reached toward her laptop.

Having played the waiting game for months, Katz’s patience was worn to its final thread. Despite developing an interest in Ohio State University early on, she found herself in one of the last releases of the early action group.

So when she clicked on the status update and saw the results earlier this year, she didn’t just let out a sigh of relief — she screamed, bounded with joy, shook with elation. Katz collapsed into her mother’s arms, whose tears mingled with her daughter’s.

 

Drained, Katz could finally rest assured, knowing that reality had caught up with her dreams. She would pursue a degree in early childhood education as one of the newest members of the Buckeye family.

Although it took time for Katz to secure her spot at Ohio State, Ashley Lomax, then an undergraduate recruiter in the college, knew instantly the New Jersey native would fit in as a Buckeye. “She stuck out to me because of her commitment to service,” Lomax said. “I think that’s something the college stands for: being able to learn through engaging in spaces.”

Katz’s commitment to service started when she was four years old. Her mother, a teacher in an under-resourced area, instilled the joys of teaching. “I set up a mock classroom in my basement,” said Katz, a grin breaking out across her face. “I made my parents get that paint to make a magnetic wall, so I could hang students’ work and give tests to my grandma.”

Eager to grow, Katz has left her comfort zone and taken on learning experiences that proved to be invaluable. “I created a fundraiser called Cardio for Campers, which raises money for a camp called Project Morry where kids get to go for the summer, completely free,” Katz said. She saw the fruits of her fundraising pay off when she visited the camp last year.

Katz also spent two weeks in Thailand in 2019, teaching English to a village’s children. Reflecting on her experience, Katz said she will always remember the kindness of the people she served. “Seeing groups of children with less than you’ve ever seen, yet they’re more welcoming and giving than anyone I’ve ever met here. It was heartbreaking but rewarding at the same time.”

She’s already pushed herself and achieved more than most do in a lifetime. But she’s not done yet.

Man talks to two women about student life at Ohio State
Katz’s mom (center) can smile knowing that Noa (right) has found another friend in Toles (left).

Finding connections

Her enduring love for teaching and learning led Katz to search for the best program for her. So she reached out to various universities. Ashley Lomax stood out among the recruiters she met. “What sold me was when I met Ashley,” Katz said. “She was the first person who said, ‘Tell me about yourself.’ She cared about me as an individual, and not because of what I’ve done or what I want to do or telling me facts about the school.”

During their first meeting, Lomax talked with Katz and her mother for more than an hour — only 20 minutes were spent discussing the program. Lomax shared the benefits of the college’s early childhood education program while maintaining a personal approach. “I ended up giving her some Buckeye swag,” Lomax said. Noa later told her that she still had the color-changing cup Lomax had given her at their first meeting. “I’m like, ‘Oh my god, that cup is forever old!’” Lomax said, laughing.

The connection Katz found with Lomax continues with current undergraduate recruiter Ari Toles. (Lomax accepted a position with the college’s Educational Studies graduate student office.) “Ari and I really hit it off at the New Jersey event,” Katz said. “He said, ‘Alright, when we go into the room with all these prospective, admitted students who are clearly not as enthusiastic as you, you’re gonna scream O-H!’” From that point on, Katz knew she had two people she could turn to for support.

Encouraging her along the final stretch of her journey to Ohio State, Toles has been a welcome presence for Katz. Months after their initial meeting, Katz, taking more than an hour to finish her first-year schedule, found herself baking in a hot classroom when a familiar face walked in. “When I was done, he clapped. For me! No one else had someone waiting in the room for them.”

Lomax and Toles gave Katz the support she craves and thrives on — something she will need as she enters a crucial stage of her life.

Three women, one man form O-H-I-O outside building at Ohio State
Katz (center-right) perfects her O-H-I-O with Lomax and Toles.

Developing a sense of home

Katz plans to seek out Toles and Lomax for support and guidance. “I’m all about gaining the confidence in myself through others.” She may not even have to reach out to her college recruiters as both plan to remain an integral part of Katz’s life.

Lomax hasn’t forgotten Katz’s bright, shining personality and hopes to provide whatever help she can. “I’d do anything for Noa,” she said. “She’s one of the students who definitely stood out.”

Building on the college’s close-knit atmosphere, Toles sees his recruiter role as a familial one, because many students miss their families once they move to campus. “As part of the college selection process, parents are literally letting go of the hand of what they would consider to be their most precious cargo — and that’s their children,” he said.

Toles, like Lomax, has made it part of his job to stay in touch with students throughout their time at Ohio State. “There’s nothing more fulfilling for me than to see our young people develop and graduate.”

Reflecting on the strength she gained from her recruiters, Katz expressed appreciation. “Ashley was the one who helped me see, ‘You’re going to be fine,’ and Ari’s now the one who’s saying, ‘You’re going to do so well,’” Katz said. “Having those voices from older people … will be really beneficial.”

As the New Jersey native prepares for her first year at Ohio State and navigating college life, she can breathe a little easier “knowing that there’s someone on campus who knows my face, knows my name and is watching out for me,” Katz said.

Miles away from her family, in a place she has yet to know, Noa Katz is already starting to feel right at home.

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