Local Scholarship Honors Founder Ruby N. Jones

The Oberlin Community Youth Scholarship Fund recently changed its name to the Ruby N. Jones Community Scholarship Fund to honor its founder, who passed away in January of this year. The scholarship has been providing funds to make higher education more accessible for students from Oberlin for 20 years, raising over $200,000. According to the Chair of the scholarship board, the fund has awarded 43 scholarships and currently supports 16 students.

Ruby Jones, better known as Ms. Ruby, worked in the Oberlin Public School system for 25 years as a teaching aide. Jones received the Distinguished Community Service Award at Oberlin College Commencement in 2003 and the Sojourner Truth Award from the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club in recognition of her community service.

“She helped where help was needed, wherever it was needed,” board member and Oberlin Manager of Academic Operations Maggie Robinson said. “She impacted hundreds of students’ lives in a quiet and graceful way.”

Jones founded the scholarship with a vision to create a financial support system and community network for students who may be unable to access higher education without such support.

“Jones did not think of this as an individual endeavor on her part, as much as it was a community effort,” said Del Mason, chair of the scholarship board.

A.G. Miller, scholarship board member and Religion professor, added, “She would say, ‘it’s not about me, it’s about the community.’”

Board members hope that Jones’ dedication to the betterment of the Oberlin community will live on through this fund.

“She devoted her life’s work to her students, and their dreams of going to college became her dream too,” board member and Vice President for Communications Ben Jones wrote in an email to the Review. “She created the scholarship in 1998 to encourage the entire Oberlin community to come together to support those dreams, and hundreds of Oberlin residents now contribute to the fund annually.”

Recipients of the award believe that this fund has strengthened the community and has offered local students increased educational opportunities.

“For me, [this fund] has really changed my perception of community support,” said award recipient Kailey Vilyus. “Students pursuing academics can feel isolated. To have members of the community support me, and ask me about how I am doing financially and academically meant a lot.”

Vilyus, a psychology major, obtained an associate degree from Cleveland State University earlier this year. Henry Smith, another recipient, echoed Vilyus’ sentiments. Smith recently graduated from Hiram College, where he studied finance.

“It gave me the finances that I was looking for,” Smith said. “I didn’t have to stress to come up with the money. I know a couple of other people who benefited in the community. It really helped out and allowed me to continue my education.” Scholarships are awarded to recipients based on need and drive. The recipients are often not students at the top of the class, but students who demonstrate potential.

“Many of them will tell you that they started their freshman year with poor grades and then something happened that made them realize ‘Hey! Wait a minute, I may want to do something with my life.’ You see this turn,” Miller said. “These are the students that Ms. Ruby felt were the most deserving and needed the support from the community.”

Board members seek recipients who show improvement and academic dedication.

“We look for students who have shown an upward trajectory in their grades over time, who have a palpable desire to continue their education, and who demonstrate the drive and commitment needed to be successful in college and to graduate,” wrote Ben Jones in an email to the Review.

Robinson is one of the board members tasked with interviewing applicants. She noted the challenge the board faces in selecting award winners.

“All of these students are so worthy of this scholarship,” Robinson said. “They are all so awesome. Especially once you hear their plans for their future, and see their curve of improvement in high school. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make this selection.”

In order to continue to support and encourage higher education in Oberlin, the fund relies on donations from residents.

“The support of our community is our principal source [for funding],” Mason said.

Members of the College and several student organizations have contributed to the Ruby N. Jones Community Scholarship Fund.

“Some money has been given to us from the bookstore, from various student groups on campus, the President’s Office, and oc- casionally from the co-ops,” Miller said.

In the past, the fund also received proceeds from “Colors of Rhythm,” an event sponsored by the Multicultural Resource Center.

The scholarship fund memorializes Jones’ legacy and continues to strengthen the Oberlin Community.

“She was one of those people who just had an aura, a life force that was so positive and so determined — very humble, very warm, and able to get people to listen to the angels in their nature,” said Ferd Protzman, board member and Oberlin Chief of Staff. “[She would inspire people to ask,] ‘why wouldn’t I want to help Oberlin’s young people?’”

Jones was highly regarded by neighbors, students, and colleagues.

“She was a very capable and a modest person,” Mason said. “She was not a high- profile position in the school, but worked in a capacity that put her in contact with a lot of the students.”

Awardees currently get $6,000 spread over the course of their studies. These funds can be used for tuition, books, or various other expenses. This year, the fund awarded five recipients.