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Scholarship winners get a boost as they work wonders

Robin Chenoweth
August 28, 2017

The College of Education and Human Ecology and its donors are handing out hope and helping students pursue their passion. EHE has awarded 638 scholarships — a total of more than $1.3 million — for the 2017-18 academic year. Our newest, the Connor Family Scholarship, was awarded for the first time to Tim Graham in the counselor education program. 

Here are stories of four student scholarship winners, why the awards matter to them and how they will use the funds to change lives.

Boluwatiwi Durojaye

Martha Koehne and Minerva Harbage Memorial Fund
Leta Gigax Duhamel Scholarship

Boluwatiwi Durojaye is one of 11 children. But when he got the notification of his first EHE scholarship, he was alone in his Nigerian home. Being awarded The Lucile and Roland Kennedy Scholarship was too much to bear by himself, so he ran from his house, whooping.

Now a PhD candidate in The Ohio State University Interdisciplinary Program in Nutrition, he’s still receiving scholarships, and he’s still elated.

“My educational journey has been a miracle, thanks in large part to fellowships and scholarships provided by donors” like Martha Koehne, Minerva Harbage and Leta Gigax Duhamel, he said.

His endgoal is to eradicate vitamin-A deficiency in Africa, because the condition causes night blindness, infections and stunted growth in children. The mortality rate for children with severe vitamin-A deficiency can exceed 50 percent.

The most readily absorbed sources of the vitamin are not veggies but meat, eggs, dairy — foods unavailable to impoverished people. Yet millions consume cassava and corn. Biofortify those staples — breed them to increase vitamin A — and the problem’s solved, but only if their bodies actually absorb the nutrient, Durojaye said. Much vitamin A can be lost during digestion.

He’s studying one enzyme — carboxyl esterase 3 — to see if it helps store vitamin A in the liver, then mobilize it back into the body when the vitamin is lacking in the diet. The liver works like a reservoir that kicks in during drought, mobilizing stores of vitamin A with carboxyl esterase 3 possibly working as the catalyst.

“If you understand how the body works, you can better fortify the food so that the body can use it to prevent disease,” he said.

Ultimately, Durojaye hopes to set up labs in Nigeria and apply for grants to do research there. Who knows? When he gets the grant notifications, he might whoop all over again.

Morgan Ayers

La Von Shook Scholarship for Student Athlete in Education
Helen Cummings Berdelman Scholarship in Elementary Education

Her second-grade teacher was her inspiration.

“I remember every little thing she did,” says Morgan Ayers — like constructing creative writing projects for 7-year-olds.

“She changed my life. Since then I could not see myself as anything else.”

Ayers graduates next spring with a BSEd in early childhood education. To clinch that goal, she had to jump some pretty high hurdles.

Six years ago, her younger sister was diagnosed with leukemia. After a relapse, the girl had a bone-marrow transplant and spent 100 days in isolation in a Cincinnati hospital. The family hit a low; their mother was forced to quit her job.

“There were no options,” Ayers said. “There was no hope of any money going to my college fund. I knew it was all on me.”

She went to work, first at the town pool, later working without a vacation. And she applied for every scholarship she could find. Her first year of college, she was forced to take out a $7,000 private loan.

Her mother prodded her to apply for EHE scholarships.

“You get bogged down with all the homework and the job and personal life and student organizations. Mom said, ‘I know you don’t have time, but you need to do it, because you never know.’”

Mom knows best. This year, Avers was awarded the La Von Shook and the Helen Cummings Berdelman scholarships; last year she earned the Julia Roberts Gump Scholarship.

A burden has lifted from Avers, she said. “I am incredibly relieved and thankful.”

Alexey Kaminski

Marilyn Ruth Hathaway Education Scholarship

When he came to Ohio State, Alexey Kaminski thought mechanical engineering would be his ‘thing.’ Moving parts, machines, robotics — he got a kick out of them. And, to be sure, he thrilled at coding and taking 3-D software classes.

But then came physics. “I dreaded class; it was overwhelming sometimes,” he said. “I didn’t see myself continuing with this.”

He tried art, the tech variety, and considered an art institute. At an orientation he was told, “You eat, you sleep, you breathe art.” He didn’t.

He came to the College of Education and Human Ecology, took a field experience class and, suddenly, everything fell into place.

“My whole life, I’ve been doing autism camps, tutoring, helping people. I want to do this — teaching — not be behind a desk or in a lab somewhere.”

He connects with middle-schoolers. When his scholars group tutored sixth-graders at an underperforming school in Weldon, North Carolina, they played “mathsketball.” If kids missed a shot, they answered a math question. It was a hit.

He helped a boy master long division. “Once he understood, he wanted to keep going. He said, ‘Give me four digits divided by two numbers.’ It was cool to see that click.”

Kaminski worked through summer, pouring asphalt, landscaping, doing heavy labor to pay half his tuition. He was surprised — and felt validated — when he received the Marilyn Ruth Hathaway Education Scholarship.

“It shows that people are supporting me in what I truly want to do, and they believe I can make a difference in a young student’s life,” he said.

Natosha Willis

Dr. Charles R. Hancock Graduate Scholarship in Urban Education
Wilbur Hopkins Memorial Scholarship
John O. and Elsie Jenkins Memorial Scholarship

It’s personal for Natosha Willis. She’s doing research on mass incarceration of African American males because she needs to make sense of what happened to her cousin.

At 17, Marques was tried as an adult and imprisoned for 10 years.

Visiting him there, Willis started thinking about the incarceration system. “Though he was in a long-term facility, he didn’t have a lot of educational and vocational opportunities.”

Two years after his release, Marques was dead.

Teaching for five years in urban Atlanta schools, Willis saw correlations between the so-called School to Prison Pipeline and zero-tolerance policies that stringently punish students for minor infractions.

“So many things that I saw . . . that’s been my motivation for my research,” said Willis, now a PhD candidate in Educational Policy.

Her dissertation examines factors that contribute to incarceration of African American males, focusing on how schools, family and community play a role. This semester she will begin recruiting men for the study.

“I’ll get their stories, look at what policy might need to be changed, what practices implemented, in order to eliminate or decrease the likelihood of their incarceration.”

Willis hopes to start a nonprofit life-skills program for black youth. She sometimes calls Marques' mom to tell her about the research.

“I want to be that advocate, that fill-in, until we can change policies, or find more money to get enough people to support our youth,” she said.

Need a scholarship?

The only way to receive an EHE scholarship is to apply. The college awards scholarships each year to students enrolled in an EHE program. Scholarships applications will open later this autumn. Get more information.