Engaging elders, fathers part of creating youth success

Renee Thompson, Ohio State Mansfield Family Engagement and Outreach Coordinator, explains the Fatherhood Initiative to a group of community leaders.

Renee Thompson, Ohio State Mansfield Family Engagement and Outreach Coordinator, explains the Fatherhood Initiative to a group of community leaders.

“What would happen if a university, a school district, and a community worked together to promote healthy youth development?” The question was posed two years ago as Renee Thompson became Family Engagement and Outreach Coordinator at The Ohio State University at Mansfield.

Out of that question came a series of community conversations dubbed “Beginning Anew.” Since then, Thompson has been instrumental in creating outreach programs and community collaborations centered on that theme, ensuring college-readiness for youth and creating greater ties between the university and the community.

Engaging Elders: Connecting Children, Campus and Community, to be hosted May 21 at the Mansfield campus, is a collaborative effort by the university, Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging, Inc., the North End Community Improvement Collaborative Inc., and Richland County Children’s Services. Recognizing that grandparents sometimes assume child-rearing responsibilities, the day includes discussions centered on that theme, along with a luncheon to honor elders.

Realizing that it takes a family to ready a student for college, Thompson brought the Fatherhood Initiative to Richland County. Funded through the Community Action Commission of Erie, Huron and Richland Counties, the initiative will help fathers strengthen their parenting capabilities by providing them with the tools and strategies to become committed fathers for their children.

Thompson maintains offices at Mansfield High School and the campus to provide a link between the university, students and parents, ensuring students are college-ready through the Algebra Project and other tutoring opportunities. A family resource room has been established at the high school to provide an informal place for parents to gather and talk. A summer camp for high school students transitioning to college also is in the planning stages.

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