In 2002, Oberlin residents Dick and Ann Ninde offered a challenge grant toward the goal of making it possible for all Oberlin High School students to attend college. With the help of other community members and the College, the Ninde Scholars Program was founded in 2003 as a collaboration between the College, Oberlin City Schools and the Lorain County Urban League. The Scholars Program aims to honor the Nindes’ commitment to education by offering tutoring and college preparation services. The program has grown greatly in the 8 years since its creation.
Some services — such as the College Essay Night — are available for all Oberlin High School students, but the Scholars Program is specifically tailored to a small group of highly motivated students accepted after undergoing an application process.
Though the program started off with a just dozen Ninde Scholars in grades 11 and 12 and four tutors, the program has since grown to about fifty Scholars in grades seven to 12 and twelve tutors.
The program particularly focuses on underrepresented minorities, low-income students and students who would be the first in their families to obtain a college degree.
“With the younger ones, [the program] mostly focuses on subject tutoring and exposing them to the idea of college. The high schoolers get the typical college prep,” said Bo Arbogast, the director of the Ninde Scholars Program, who believes that one of the biggest issues these students face is the lack of preparation for college.
The Scholars Program focuses on exposing the students to more than just the college application process. Having tutors who are undergraduates at a college located within walking distance helps this effort, but Ninde Scholars also have the opportunity to visit other campuses and attend talks about preparing for college life.
There is great emphasis on the College¬-community partnership that emerges with this program. Both the opening and graduating ceremonies for the Scholars are held at Kendal at Oberlin, since many of the residents supported the Ninde Scholars Program from the beginning. Parents are encouraged to take an active part in their child’s education and college application process. Furthermore, the tutors themselves strengthen the connection between Oberlin College and the community.
College junior Melissa George, one of the program’s homegrown tutors, is a perfect example of the benefits of the Scholars Program.
“I’m from Oberlin, so [the Ninde Scholars Program] is something that I knew about. I decided to get involved because I wanted to do something with education and kids.”
Arbogast expressed nothing but praise for his tutors and their drive to help the Scholars.
“They’re in there working to help kids overcome some pretty tough odds for success in college,” he said. “We haven’t always succeeded, but we keep trying and we know we’re on the right track.”