Leadership Development

My first-year ACES mentee was Molly Ridge. Molly is an Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability (EEDS) major from Cleveland, Ohio. She loves music, has a knack for photography, and participates in modeling as a fun hobby. Molly and I have many similarities that allowed us to form a friendship beyond just being a mentorship pair. For instance, we both participate in the same tutoring program that helps Ohio State students who have Autism Spectrum Disorder organize and complete their schoolwork. Through this program, Molly and I were able to see each other at least once a week and consequently formed a closer bond than if we were to just carry out the mentorship program requirements. We also both really care about the environment and sustainability.  Molly is on the executive board of an OSU student organization called Best Food Forward that provides healthy, bulk-bought food for students. She helped me purchase food through this organization and further enlightened me about the organization’s goals and events. She has even inspired me to possibly join the organization next semester. Molly and I also have a very similar music and movie/TV show taste, so we always have something to talk about. On the other hand, Molly and I do have our differences. She participates in modeling and has a high sense of fashion, whereas I am more laid back with my style and do not hold interest in modeling. I truly respect and admire Molly’s self expressions through fashion and modeling. We also vary in how we spend our free time. Molly enjoys going to concerts, taking pictures, and is highly sociable. Contrarily, I am more leisurely and enjoy spending my time just hanging out with friends or reading a good book. However, despite our differences, Molly and I were still able to form a close bond throughout this year and I know that we will keep in contact throughout our remaining years at Ohio State.

It was exciting to watch Molly grow as a student and as an individual. From first semester to second, Molly gained a better sense of time management and independence. At the beginning of the school year, she told me how she was struggling with balancing her school life with her social life and was always calling home for help with things like laundry or finances. However, as the year went on, Molly fell into a routine and learned many skills to help her manage her time. She planned out blocks of time to finish her schoolwork before she had to work in the evening or hang out with friends. Gradually, she also became much more independent than she was at the beginning of the year. She learned valuable skills and tips that helped her complete daily activities more easily, and I was able to give her advice whenever she asked for it. Being a mentor has allowed me to truly grow as an individual throughout the year. At first, I was slightly hesitant to reach out to my mentee out of fear that she would think I was being too pushy and would end up not liking me. However, with time I learned that she truly appreciated me reaching out, so I did so more often as the year went on. Eventually, we were able to talk about things completely unrelated to ACES and formed a great friendship.

The mentorship program has taught me how to analyze my own past experiences in a way that allows me to relay advice and information to someone who is new to those experiences. Having gone through much of what Molly went through, I was able to come up with advice to suggest things to Molly that she should or should not do to help aid in her success. It also taught me the importance of communication in terms of getting to know a previous stranger. I now feel confident that I can hold meaningful and insightful conversations with those who I have previously not known at all. I often gave my mentee advice on how to manage her school work with her social life and her job. I also gave her tips on how to study and find good spots on campus to study. Additionally, I helped my mentee learn the bus system so she could more  easily navigate through campus and Columbus with confidence. There were many benefits to participating in the ACES mentoring program. I learned a lot about myself in terms of how I am as both a leader and a friend. I also learned a lot from my mentee about what information is valuable to relay to her. Overall, the mentorship program not only strengthened me as a leader, but it also gave me a new friend which I am very grateful for.

Explore Columbus

This semester, my ACES mentee Molly and I once again set out to explore a fun, new place in Columbus. After comparing our schedules and figuring out a time that worked best for both of us, Molly and I decided to get brunch together. Because there are dozens of excellent places in Columbus to get breakfast or brunch, it was fairly difficult for us to decide where to go. However, we finally decided to spend our morning at. Blunch. Blunch is a new restaurant in Clintonville that a married couple recently opened to share their love of food with the Columbus community. Molly and I had both heard great things about the food, so we thought we should go explore it ourselves. Considering that my dorm is on the way to the restaurant from where Molly lives, she first met me at my dorm. We then decided we would catch a bus to save and walked over to the bus stop together. Upon waiting for the bus to pick us up and take us to our destination, Molly and I had a nice conversation and were able to catch up with each others’ lives. She enlightened me about how the end of her semester will play out, and I did the same. After asking how she has liked her first year at Ohio State, I was excited to hear that she absolutely loves it and can not wait for next semester to start. Going to college in a new town with so many new people and opportunities is not always the easiest thing, yet I am glad that Molly has acclimated herself well and is able to enjoy everything that Ohio State has to offer. She also told me about her end-of-the-year photography class project and how she planned to go home for the weekend to capture photos in a special place. I really admire her love for photography and think she has such a creative mind.

When the bus finally came, we eagerly hopped on and rode for several stops until we approached where we needed to get off. We ended up in an old-fashioned area with brick buildings and locally run businesses. After finally making it to the restaurant, we were ecstatic by the warm welcome that we received. The inviting yellows and blues of the restaurant really created a happy atmosphere, and each employee seemed equivalently happy to be there. Thankfully the restaurant was not too crowded, so we were seated right away. The biggest challenge for Molly and I during our excursion was choosing what to order off of the extensive, brunch-filled menu. Blunch offered such a wide variety of enticing foods that it was extremely hard to pick a meal. However, we finally decided on our meals and were able to place our orders. Upon waiting for our food to arrive, Molly and I continued to have a great conversation. We talked about our plans for the summer, our jobs, and other random topics like movies we enjoy watching. I was very intrigued by Molly’s aspiration to study abroad for an entire semester in Kenya where she would be doing field work related to environmental sciences. I truly hope that she is able to partake in that trip, as I know it would be life-changing for her. Additionally, we found out that we actually participate in the same tutoring organization on campus. It was coincidental that we share this position, and I am happy that we both plan to continue tutoring in the years to come. I know this will be a way for Molly and I to keep in touch after the end of this year.

When the food arrived, our eyes lit up at the sight of our delicious brunches. We both thoroughly enjoyed the food we chose and agreed that we would definitely be coming back to the restaurant. We concluded that it would be a great place to take our parents when they are in town. After we finished our food, we left quickly to ensure Molly would get to her class in time. We again waited at the bus stop where we continued our conversation about movies, TV shows, and music. Molly and I have a lot in common and I thoroughly enjoy spending time with her. I am thankful that the ACES Mentorship Program has not only provided me with leadership and mentoring skills, but also with a new friend. I know Molly and I will keep in touch, and I am excited to see how her future at OSU turns out. Overall, going to brunch with Molly was a great time and I will definitely be recommending Blunch to all of my friends.

Mentee Interview

This semester, I conducted a second interview with my ACES mentee Molly. Molly is a first year majoring in Environment, Development, Economy, and Sustainability (EDES) and is greatly enjoying her time here at Ohio State. To further inquire about Molly’s second semester, I asked her the following questions:

    1. Are you enjoying your major? Why or why not?
    2. Which class on your current schedule do you think will be the most challenging and why?
    3. How do you manage your time between your involvement and your academics?
    4. Have you enjoyed the ACES living-learning community in Smith-Steeb? Why or why not?
    5. What recommendations do you have for improving the ACES program?



Although Molly is still trying to figure out exactly what she wants to do career-wise, she says she really likes the things she is learning through her major. Looking forward to next semester, Molly is in the process of deciding whether she wants to keep EDES as her major or if she wants to change that to her minor and pursue a Business major instead. Because Molly does not necessarily wish to attend grad school, she thinks the Business major route may be better suited for her career goals. Some day Molly wishes to work with a non-profit organization that works with the government to help the environment and improve sustainability. Molly’s most challenging class this semester is her Economics class, which is required for her major. On the other hand, her favorite class is her photography class which she took simply because she is very interested in photography and enjoys taking pictures on her own time. I think it is important for students to take time out of their busy schedule to do at least one class they thoroughly enjoy. Although Molly keeps a busy schedule with a job and her extracurriculars, she manages her time by getting as much class work done in between classes as she can. Molly works in the Nisonger center on medical campus. She also participates in the Ace! program through the Nisonger center which helps students with developmental disabilities organize and complete their school work. In fact, I also participate in this program, so I am able to spend time with Molly during the events. Hopefully we will both continue with this program in future semesters so that we can keep in touch after I am no longer her ACES mentor. Molly also is involved with Weird Music, a student organization that emphasizes self expression and acceptance through music. By the stories she tells me and the types of music she shows me, I can tell that Weird Music is a really cool event and that Molly really likes it. I hope she continues with this organization in future semesters. Additionally, Molly also is on the Executive Board for the Best Food Forward student organization which provides bulk-bought produce to students living on or off campus. This is very helpful to students as it provides an affordable option for buying healthy foods. I plan on utilizing this resource myself when I live off-campus next year. Molly even has become involved with modeling and was picked up by an acting agency recently. Molly has definitely enjoyed living in the Smith-Steeb ACES living-learning community, and has made many friends in her residence hall. She enjoys living on south campus mostly because of the many nearby food options like the Union Market and Sloopy’s diner. She hopes to live on south campus again next year. Although Molly thoroughly enjoys the ACES program and its Mentorship Program, she does have some suggestions for its improvement. She wishes to see a greater involvement in the “Education” aspect of ACES since that is something she expected when coming into the program. I think numerous ACES Scholars, many being Education majors, agree with Molly on this suggestion. Molly also suggested more involved Community Meetings, as she likes when we’re not just talked at, but rather are engaging with other ACES scholars. I agree with her and like when we are able to engage with other ACES, as I feel as though we do not get enough chances to mingle with everyone in the scholars program. Overall, Molly is having a great time at OSU and in ACES. I am excited to see where the rest of her college career takes her and hope I can continue to stand as a mentor and friend to her.


Explore Columbus

This semester, I was more than excited to venture out and explore the great city of Columbus with my two mentees Kylie and Molly. Speaking from experience, as a freshman it can be hard to know where to go or what to do when coming to college in a new city. It was rewarding to show my mentees new, fun places around Ohio State that they could continue to go to and enjoy in their future years here at Ohio State. While planning my Explore Columbus trips, I knew that I wanted to take each of my mentees to a destination they were excited about and do so at different times so I could truly get to know them better one-on-one. I found it very beneficial to take them out separately because they both have very different personalities which had truly shown through once I spoke with them.                                           

After suggesting to Kylie that we could go eat at Condado’s, she was extremely excited to go to “that place with the amazing cheese dip”. She had heard of the restaurant and its great Mexican cuisine (especially the queso)and had always wanted to go. I remember being a freshman last year with the same exact prenotions and curiosities regarding the restaurant and was thankful I could be the first one to take her there. After solidifying when we would go out to dinner, Kylie and I arranged to meet up and take the Cota bus together down to the Short North. On the way there, I showed Kylie how to use the bus system so she could do so on her own for her future endeavours. When we arrived at Condado’s, we promptly ordered queso and I showed her how she could create her own tacos, which she enjoyed doing. While enjoying our time and our food, I learned a lot about Kylie’s background, hopes for her future, and her family. She turned out to be the biggest Disney World fan I had ever met.  After we paid for our meal and began heading back to our respective residence halls, I was glad to have shared great food and great conversation with Kylie.

For my other Explore Columbus, I went with Molly and fellow ACES scholar Emma and her mentee to North Market down in the Short North. Last year my mentee took me here for my first time and I loved it, so I decided to continue the tradition and take my mentee there as well. We all met up and hopped on the Cota to venture down together. On the way there I sat with Molly and we caught up about our semesters then continued to state our excitement for North Market and all the food we would be eating. Molly had heard of the restaurant there that sells delicious chicken and could not wait for that to be her lunch. While wandering around at North Market, I was able to learn about Molly’s likes and dislikes, her academic and musical interests, and her thoughts on her first semester at OSU. I was excited to hear that she really loves her new life here, and came to realize that we shared a lot in common. Molly, Emma, her mentee and I all had a great time walking around to the different vendors, chatting, and eating great food that did not come from a dining hall. Overall, the trip made for a great afternoon. Upon leaving, we all agreed that we’d go back to North Market as soon as we could.

All in all, it was was a great experience to be able to hang out with my mentees in unique settings. I feel as though the new environments allowed my mentees to relax and hold conversations that we had never had prior to Explore Columbus. It was interesting to be the one who is introducing new things to younger students as I feel like it was just yesterday when I was in their shoes new to Ohio State and new to Columbus.I believe it can truly be beneficial to take time out of students’ day to explore the world that surrounds them outside of the classroom. Often times, people may be so focused on school and the workload that comes with it that they may be blinded to the adventures and places that are out there for them. Going forward, I am excited to keep in touch with my mentees and help them with anything they might need or any questions they might have.

Mentee Interviews

My first-year mentees for the ACES mentorship program are Molly Ridge and Kylie Volak. Molly is an Environment, Development, Economy and Sustainability (EDES) major, and Kylie is majoring in Biology on a pre-med track. I sat down with each of them to inquire about themselves and their time here at Ohio State. Specifically, I asked them:

  1. How did you decide on your major?
  2. Have you found a favorite study spot on campus?
  3. Have you joined any student organizations?
  4. What is your favorite part about ACES?
  5. What do you plan on doing after graduation?
  6. Do you have a backup plan?

It was interesting to hear the girls’ answers to these questions and learn more about their interests and personalities. Molly decided on her EDES major because environmental behavior has always seemed to pique her interest, and she is passionate about sustainability. She is hoping to incorporate a business minor to further broaden her job opportunities after her undergraduate career. In fact, a huge factor in choosing OSU for Molly was the fact that it offered this major, as most schools don’t focus on the sustainability aspect. Kylie chose to major in Biology as a sort of default option because she felt it was the best route to take for medical school. As for their favorite study spot, both girls said they tend to study either at Thompson or in their rooms. I suggested the idea of the library in Orton Hall to them because I discovered it my freshman year and it truly helped me so much. Because not too many people know about this option, it does not get as crowded around the time midterms or finals and is easier to find a study spot. My mentees seemed appreciative of this suggestion, and I hope they take it into consideration. My favorite part about each girl’s interview was learning what student organizations they have joined here at OSU. Molly is really involved in Best Food Forward which is a student org dedicated to increasing the accessibility of healthy produce for students through the act of buying in bulk. Molly plans on getting even more involved in this club by acquiring an executive position. This club aligns with her love of sustainability and helping the community. Kylie has joined some fun clubs that I have never heard of. She is in Bread Club and Casual Sports Club where she bakes and eats different types of bread and participates in casual pick-up games of sports like soccer, basketball, tag, etc., respectively. Being Molly’s mentor, I was excited to hear that her favorite part about ACES is the mentorship program. She said it’s a nice, informal way of getting to know things about campus, ACES, and other general information, which I full-heartedly agree with. Kylie’s favorite part about ACES is getting to know and become friends with other ACES members. After graduation, Molly is not entirely sure which path she wants to do career-wise but would like to do something regarding the implementation of policies to make sustainability accessible to communities. She’d like to be involved in working with businesses or consulting firms or even government programs in order to achieve her goals. Kylie plans on attending medical school after graduating in order to partake in optometry or medical research. If things take a turn, Molly’s backup plan is to either do something in the business world or become a teacher. Kylie’s backup plan is to pursue data analytics. Overall, it was nice to get to know both my mentees a little bit better by conducting their interviews, and I am glad I had the chance to converse with each of them. With the information they provided in mind, I will be able to be a better mentor for both Molly and Kylie.

Academic Achievement

Growing up, schoolwork and academics have always been a first priority of mine. Homework was always the first thing I did after school, I turned my projects in early, and I proofread my papers dozens of times. I used to consider myself a perfectionist when it came to school until I reached high school and came to the realization that wanting to do well in school and succeed academically is not just a perfectionist’s quirk, it is a reasonable drive for success. That’s why when the reality of having to apply to college finally set in, I went all in to focus on my grades, extracurriculars, and my overall well-roundedness as a student and an individual. I had never really been one of those people who has a top college in mind for years and knows exactly what they want after high school or where they could see herself graduating from. That’s why the college process was particularly difficult for me. I had no idea what I wanted, what type of campus I wanted, or what I wanted to major in. Finally, after doing plenty of research and thinking on my own time, I narrowed my choices down to three universities, Ohio State being my top choice. Knowing that this was a competitive school, I dedicated countless hours into my application and my studies to ensure I got in. Looking back, I can undoubtedly say that when I received my first acceptance letter to college-from The Ohio State University- I had never been prouder of myself. In that moment, I knew that putting my mind to something and working hard truly did pay off. Now, I’m the happiest I could be and am so thankful to be able to further my education here at Ohio State.


Service Engagement

Out of all the G.O.A.L.S., I have mostly connected to Service Engagement. This semester, I participated in many service events such as creating cards for hospitalized children, clearing out an invasive species to improve the environment, making sandwiches for the homeless, etc. To me, completing a service project is one of the most fulfilling feelings and makes me want to do it more and more often. For ACES, we are required to do 20 hours of community service which at first seemed daunting, but after a while I realized that it’s the least I can do to give back to the Columbus community. Looking back, I am extremely happy I did the service that I did and am proud of my contributions.


Within the Honors and Scholars programs, there are “G.O.A.L.S” that serve as a strong outline for what I will strive to accomplish during my time at OSU.

Global Awareness– Attending a university as culturally diverse as Ohio State is great for broadening my global awareness. I have already met and interacted with so many others who are very different than me with a different background, but still have so much in common with me. My first semester has already taught me to recognize and truy appreciate diversity and different cultures of the world.

Original Inquiry: Having a pre-health major, original inquiry relating to research could really help me with my studies as well as applying to grad school. I would love to be able to get involved with research and/or meet with prestigious researchers on and around campus that could teach me new information I could use as a springboard for my own original thoughts and questions.

Academic Enrichment: Being in a scholars program has already taught me so much about the importance of academics and how to enrich my studies here at Ohio State. On top of that, my rigorous schedule has taught me valuable time management skills that I will use for the rest of my life. In addition, I have utilized many valuable resources to help me enrich my academic experience such as tutoring, office hours, and the Younkin Success Center. I think it’s important for a student to be resourceful and not afraid of reaching out for help in order to get the most out of his/her education.

Leadership Development: Both academically and non-academically, I have always been one to withhold leadership positions within group settings. Whether I demonstrated my skills in a classroom, an extracurricular, or even at dance class, I learned something new about leadership every time I found myself in the position as a leader. I plan to use those skills I learned and have an open mind about new skills as I continually developing my leadership at OSU.

Service Engagement: Service is a huge part of the ACES Scholars program, and it is undoubtedly my favorite part. I believe it is our right as humans to give back to the community in which we live, so I have always been actively involved in volunteer work and community service. In high school, I volunteered a lot through Student Council and wanted to continue doing so in college. I strongly believe that after my four years at Ohio State, I will have contributed countless hours of service to my new community of Columbus

Meet My Mentor!


One of my favorite parts of being involved in the Advocates for Community and Education Scholars  (ACES) is the mentorship program. At the beginning of the semester, each first-year within ACES was assigned a mentor who had similar interests/connections. My mentor Madison has been a huge help in getting acclimated to my new life as a student at OSU. She is also planning to become an occupational therapist, so she was able to give me advice about which classes would be beneficial for me to take. She also has helped me explore Columbus! Being from Pittsburgh, one of the things I was most excited about when coming to Ohio State was the ability to see a new city. Madison took me to a unique market for lunch, showing me parts of my new community that I didn’t know existed. I’m glad I can have Madison as someone to count on as not only a helpful resource but a friend as well!

About Me

Braylee Gaertner is a current freshman at The Ohio State University in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. She is majoring in Health Sciences, plans to later declare a minor in Developmental Psychology, and aspires to attend graduate school to  become a pediatric occupational therapist. She was inspired to pursue this career due to her love for working with children, desire to help others, and appreciation for science. Braylee enjoys participating in community service and has continued to do so at Ohio State. Specifically, she is an active member of the student organization Healthpoints, a group of pre-health students who connect their passions for health and community service. Outside of the classroom, Braylee loves to dance, be involved with theatre, and be surrounded by friends who make her laugh. She is extremely excited for her future at OSU and all of the opportunities that are bound to come her way.