Volunteer Program Bridges Generations, Offers Free College Tuition

Shepherd of the Valley is proud to partner with the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the Ohio Department of Aging to participate in GIVE back. GO forward. This is a state initiative to increase senior volunteerism and
reward their good deeds with college tuition to keep or gift.
Thank you to Mandie Maxwell and Kaylene Way for contributing this piece to our site!

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Volunteer Program Bridges Generations, Offers Free College Tuition

Submitted By Mandie Maxwell, Ohio Department of Higher Education; and Kaylene Way, Ohio Department of Aging

It can be said that a community’s most valuable assets are its elders, with their years of experience and wisdom, and its youth, who represent a vibrant future filled with opportunity.

The elders of the Mahoning Valley have helped build the region into what it is today, using their expertise in business, industry, innovation and community involvement to bring new life to this part of Ohio. Continued prosperity will depend on future generations, which can learn from their elders while charting their own course for success.
It is with this mindset that GIVE back. GO forward. – a joint initiative of the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the Ohio Department of Aging – was developed. Through the program, elders age 60 and older have the opportunity to “give back” to the community by volunteering 100 hours per year at select volunteer organizations. Once volunteers have tallied 100 hours of service, they will earn a three-hour college tuition waiver that can be used at either Youngstown State University or Eastern Gateway Community College. Volunteers can choose to use the waiver themselves, or gift it to a current or future college student to help the student “go forward.”

In March of 2016, Paula Kacir of Lowellville became the program’s first volunteer to reach 100 volunteer hours. Paula first learned of the GIVE back. GO forward. program through a local newspaper article and realized the impact the program could have on her family and her community. As a local child care provider for more than 30 years and an alum of Youngstown State University (YSU) , Paula relished the opportunity to work with today’s youth. As a GIVE back. GO forward. volunteer, Paula provides tutoring and after-school learning opportunities to children in grades K-3 at the Youngstown Community School. She’s earned more than 120 volunteer hours thus far through United Way’s Success After 6 program and the Struthers City Schools’ Project MORE.

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[From left to right: Sister Patricia McNicholas of Eastern Gateway Community College, Chancellor John Carey of the Ohio Department of Higher Education,
Volunteer Paula Kacir, Grandson Michael Kacir, President Jim Tressel of Youngstown State University]

Paula chose to give her YSU tuition waiver to her eldest grandson, Michael Kacir. Michael, a mechanical engineering major at YSU, is following in the footsteps of his father, Stephen Kacir, and his parents are as excited as Michael about the tuition waiver. Michael plans to use the tuition waiver to take a “fun” summer course, and Paula is already working on the second tuition waiver for her youngest grandson, Nicolas.

Volunteers such as Paula donate their time to multiple programs, including United Way, Inspiring Minds and Project MORE. These programs use their elder volunteers to give youth the opportunity to be successful in their school years and beyond. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, but GIVE back. GO forward. is especially designed to help older Ohioans live “Well Beyond 60.” Elders who volunteer feel valued and may experience various health and emotional benefits, such as enhanced cognitive wellness and flexibility, as well as reduced social isolation. In addition, helping others succeed brings personal satisfaction and ensures all of us that we are valued members of society who continue to grow, thrive and contribute. As mentors to youth, many of these volunteers helps younger generations understand that aging is everybody’s business.

You can learn more about GIVE back. GO forward. and sign up to be a volunteer at www.ohiohighered.org/gbgf. Community members of the Mahoning Valley area are eager to see this program continue to flourish and impact the lives of future generations.