No Success Without Passion

Currently, I am suffering through the experience of being a college freshman at one of the largest universities in the country. This brings with it many challenges, such as finding what I am passionate about and how I want to spend my time. It is a struggle in itself staying focused at a school like The Ohio State University, and determining what career I want to go into is another struggle many freshman like myself face.

Luckily for me, I found Dr. Patty and BCEC early in my college experience. She scooped me up like a momma bird scoops a baby chick, and I am all the better for it. After taking her class, “Discovering Poverty through Leadership and Civic Engagement”, I found that one of my biggest motivators and passions is service. This set in motion a string of events that have had an immeasurable impact on my life.

First, I started working in Isabelle Ridgway Care Center, a place that takes care of people who cannot take care of themselves, whether it be because of old age, a car accident, or another obstacle. The experiences that I have gained from my time spent there have changed me into a much different man than I was when I came here, and the impact I have on the lives of the residents is something I have much more appreciation for now than I ever would have before.

I also now co-coordinate the A Day in the Life of a Buckeye program, which has also widened my appreciation of my own high school and college-search experience, while also helping me to grow and become more responsible as a student and as a man. I’ve learned that one of the largest problems high school kids face isn’t their lack of motivation or laziness, but the prevalence of adults failing children. I’ve been able to solidify some of my beliefs and opinions, one of which is that it is our job to raise, educate, and take care of our students and children in order to create the best world possible.

All in all, BCEC has been the single most impactful organization that I have joined, and experience that I have gone through since I have been in college. I am proud of the person I am today in a large part because of this group and the things I have learned about myself and how the world works. Hopefully, the coming years hold even more growth and enlightenment for me.

BCEC Site Leader

“The best way to find your self is to lose yourself in the service of others.” –Gandhi

I started this semester pretty puzzled about what exactly I wanted my life to look like in the future, and this was a little scary to me considering I was starting my senior year at OSU and probably should have figured this sort of thing out 3 years ago. I was a social work major who was really questioning if she had the ability to do that type of work and wondering if she had made a mistake. Nevertheless, I braved the autumn semester hoping something would make me believe otherwise. I day-dreamed about some life changing experience that would lead me to what I was born to do or finding some affirmation that the current track I was on was exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

Lucky for me, that life changing experience happened when I accepted a job with Buckeye Civic Engagement Connection. When I first accepted the job, I had no idea what I would be doing. I just knew the BCEC website made the job sound pretty cool, and I thought it could be incredibly rewarding work. I did not know it would change my thinking about communities, the people that live in them, and my part in facilitating necessary change in a person’s environment.

BCEC and my experience as a site leader helped me narrow down my professional interests. I discovered a career option that allowed me to utilize my skills, be creative, and help others. This career was in planning, so I applied to OSU’s Masters of City and Regional planning program. I would never have thought about doing this if it was not for BCEC and the opportunity to spend time in neighborhoods and engage the communities. BCEC has been one of the most important learning experiences in my college career thus far, and I am happy to still be here today.

Do Concrete Walls Alone Stop Crime?

 I came across an article not too long ago that told the story of a juvenile court judge who believes he knows what is in every child’s best interest and will give them sentences to teach them lessons to ensure they will not re-offend. He believes it is his sole responsibility to get all of the youth that come through his courtroom into college and become productive citizens. This is a pretty admirable man, right? Well he turned out to not be as admirable as one would think.
This article describes the many critics that believe that he goes too far and is extending his role beyond a judge. Some of the critics argue that his sentences are unjust and do not match the crime while others believe that his requirements that a certain G.P.A be maintained is not in the realm of his duties. He has been questioned and in some cases ordered to reconsider sentences for violations of state law. This judge relies heavily on incarceration and long sentences, arguing that they need to learn their lessons so that they will not re-offend.

One story the author shares, was that of a young girl, with a very traumatic past, who spent a year in a facility for a very minor crime. She came out “worse than when she went in” because she was surrounded by girls who committed more serious and dangerous offenses. After her release, she committed worse crimes and was re-arrested. This time she sat in a detention center for 10 months (most likely receiving little to no help), and was then sentenced to 18 months in a residential program. After finishing the 6-9 month program early (she finished in 5 months) and receiving kudos for being the most well behaved girl in the facility, her public defender attempted to get her sentence reduced. The judge refused to hear the case because she didn’t complete the full sentence.

At one point in the article, the judge mentioned not having a father and also made the statement that he “cannot raise 1,700 kids a year”. Well sir, that is not in your job description. You are there to give fair and just sentences that should match the crime. Not try to make up for what you lacked as child.
Ironically I came across this article the day after sitting in a courtroom for an early-release hearing for one of our youth in our Buckeye REACH program. Although he was granted his early release, we witnessed youth who were not as fortunate. One young man whose story is unbelievably similar to the young girls’, was one of the unlucky ones. This young man was there, for I believe aggravated robbery and was in the custody of his aunt because he mother had passed two years ago. He had been locked up in the downtown facility for around 6-8 months. His public defender was fighting for his transfer to a rehabilitation and treatment facility where he would receive both family and personal counseling sessions. The public defenders argument was that this young man had witnessed and been a part of so many traumatic events, he was not able to properly cope with this mother’s death or the rest of his past; and this was in part why he had made some of the choices he had. Now don’t go thinking he is justifying what the kid did because he couldn’t cope with the loss of his mother, let me finish and you’ll see where I am going with this. The judge denies the motion claiming that the young man has not shown enough improvement and is not ready to go to a treatment center. He will instead spend another 8-10 months downtown. This boy has been sitting in a cell all day for 8 months receiving no mental health care or treatment. When was he supposed learn how to improve? These months spent locked up would be much more productive if we were giving them the care that they need in order to show improvement.

While I admire a judges desire to help youth and see them get into college etc., their sentences need to be just and involve treating the youth, not solely locking them away. You cannot be shocked some kids come out more troubled than before when they sit in a cell all day and receive barely any mental health care! I agree that serious offenders need to do the time and be punished, but we need to make sure that they are receiving the care and therapy they need in order to ensure they will not re-offend. Simply putting them in cell for months on end is not solving the mental health issues that aided in their crimes. We have to work on the source of the issue, not just result of the issue.

They’re Marching, But Where Are They Going?

For the past few months the country has cried out with feelings of indignation, distrust, confusion, and for some, even anger, in reference to the killing of unarmed black men and people of color in this country. Since the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, those feelings have certainly been exacerbated. The current controversies, unnerving as they may be, are certainly not a vestige of the past. Instead, they represent a larger picture of how the intersections of race, class, privilege, and power can be abused. Recent events suggest that injustice has surely not been demolished; it is merely a product of elusive transformation. In light of this, protesters have sprouted movements. Walking, trotting, and lifting their voices, many still have the audacity to keep pushing. Like all organizations, the justice system included, “good” things have the capability to be corrupted.


 As I watched many of my peers join in marching up the street and around the corner before retiring, I felt like something had gone awry. I thought to myself, “They’re marching, but where are they going?” I didn’t really have the answer but I found myself wondering why my emotions didn’t move me in the way that others did. In my heart I wanted to join, but something was missing. This trend continued, I noticed. The rise of marketed “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” T-shirts, Instagram posts of quotes, and pictures with hashtags made the movement seem more like a marketing measure than a true revolution. This is not to say that people shouldn’t march, clad themselves with anti-oppressive products, or post on social media. That is not my point. There isn’t a precise formula for justice. All these things are great, for they give voice to the crusade.  Without publicity, a movement can be silenced quietly. There is a necessity in the voice. Voices, however, lose potency if not coupled with actions, organization, and service. Let’s move past speech alone and couple it with its rightful partner.


Admittedly, I feel the same way about die-ins. I still don’t completely understand the concept of gathering in public places and enacting the deaths of many disenfranchised people as a measure of change. You’re lying prostrate; meanwhile, people are still dying literally day by day. If inspected carefully it’s easy to construe die-ins as a metaphor of passivity. Occupying the ground amongst many other people in a place that holds stores with unjust practices and policies (look up companies that benefit from the prison industrial complex) only to get up and invest your money in places that respect your dollar more than your skin color seems inauspicious at best. What did we ever gain by lying down and pretending to be dead?


Be willing to protest for more than a minute, a day, a week, or month.


These sentiments are not merely my own, but can be seen by gazing into the past. Movements like the Montgomery Bus Boycott did not have impact because of voice alone but rather a 13 month span of collective and organized economic protest. This was not just any protest, but a withholding of pocketbooks for collective change. Be mindful of what you invest yourself in. This includes (but is not limited to) your time, money, energy, and effort. I’m fine with “hands up” don’t shoot but let’s not become a generation where “hands up” is equivalent to “hands off.” We cannot be “hands up, don’t shoot” and also be “hands up, don’t vote”, “hands up, don’t volunteer”, “hands up, don’t petition”, “hands up, don’t educate”, and “hands up, don’t act”, all at the same time.  We have to pick a side. I admire the ability of our generation to have amazing zeal, but let’s kindle our emotions towards active change and keep the flames going.


You don’t have to change the world, but you do have an obligation to align your posture with your beliefs. Your mind cannot go forward if your legs are walking in the opposite direction. Let’s move towards acts that service others, our communities, and our goals. Service doesn’t mean you have to be a radical, though it’s perfectly acceptable to radically love and serve others. Service can mean anything from serving local shelter every month, spending time engaging the elderly at a retirement home, writing a letter to Congress, defending someone in court as a lawyer, impacting educational equality, tutoring the kids next door, or the kids who live under your roof. Whatever you do, I encourage you to focus on the sincere not on the sensational. Let’s put forth reasonable effort—which sometimes means sacrifice and hard work—towards the actions which ensure the longevity of equality. Service is more than a march; you have to be walking towards the right thing. ​


Check out to see how you can get involved with service in the Columbus community today. ​

Social Work Major

For most college students, with every first greeting or new acquaintance comes the question: “What is your major?” Often times, the expected response (or maybe it would be more accurate to say the desired response) consists primarily of science based practices such as medicine or engineering or chemistry. As a result, whenever someone asks me “What is your major?” there exists in me some curiosity as to how they will take the disappointing news. “I am a Social Work major.” Very few people have heard this exclamation and looked at me with sincerity or responded with an encouraging word. Most times, the response is one of confusion or possibly even of concern. “Why would a smart kid like Sam waste his life with such a ‘lowly’ career?” If the conversation manages to not turn into the whole, handing out freebies to lazy people, then someone might ask me what type of work I want to be doing in which I often respond that I want to help people who don’t have the resources to help themselves. I want to help those who have drawn the short stick get to a point of opportunity. It is at this point that some of the confusion washes off their face and then begin to understand what social work really is.

At this point the conversation might continue to persist and perhaps someone will ask me if I have an internship. This is another point of excitement for me because I now get to observe their response when I tell them that for part of my internship I go to prison. Now I have noticed that people have a variety of responses for this one. Sometimes they might be surprised, or might be curious, but most of the time they respond in such a way that communicates fear for me. As if I am putting my life on the line for this undergraduate level internship. But the reality is that my time spent in juvenile correctional facilities are far from risky.

Just as there is a misconception with what social work consists of, there are misconceptions about every population that social workers interact with. For Juvenile convicts, this is no different. The belief about imprisoned youth is that they are violent and uncontrollable, just bad eggs. But I will be the first to tell you that this conclusion is far from the truth. Since the foundation of BuckeyeREACH there has been a total of zero fights during our programming. Not one or two but zero. Every time I enter the library at the Circleville Juvenile Correctional facility I am immediately welcomed by laughing and smiling inmates who could not be happier that they get to come to Dr. Patty’s program. Now this is not to say that these inmates are never violent. Most of them ended up imprisoned due to violence or at least having exposure to violence, but my point is that their identities are not violent. They are still kids. They enjoy playing games. They like making colorful rubber band bracelets. Violence does not define these youth, however they do find themselves trapped by it at times.

One of the principles that I have noticed at BuckeyeREACH is that people tend to behave in such a way that is expected of them. If we came into REACH expecting the kids to be violent, I am sure that we would see much more violence. However, Dr. Patty has done a phenomenal job in creating a program that treats the inmates according to who they are and not what they have done. The fact is that they are still youth, they like pizza and games. They like hanging out with their friends, and maybe most importantly, they like being valued and encouraged.

So what do I do? Well I am a social work student interning with Buckeye Civic Engagement Connections and spend my working hours hanging out with youth.


I understand that I need to work on setting and keeping my boundaries with the people I work with in the community. We recently visited the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW) in an effort to gain more information about a program Dr. Patty envisioned to work with moms and their babies living with them in the facility. Upon entering the facility and going through security, we received PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) training and had our questions answered that we had prepared beforehand about ORW and the nursery program currently in effect. Both Dr. Patty and Jessica, a clinical social worker at ORW (and our main contact), shared with us that the women in the prison would be manipulative if boundaries are not maintained. I was conscious of this fact when we went to go visit with the moms, but still immediately started getting to know them and hold their babies. This was a brief visit, so I thankfully did not experience any challenges or negative experiences while we were there. The moms genuinely seemed thankful to have us there for conversation, and to hear about what they wanted out of the changing nursery program. I am very much looking forward to visiting the moms and their babies, and beginning the program there hopefully soon. I will have to make sure to be constantly keeping myself in check as far as boundaries go so that the moms and babies get as much out of the program as possible.