ODHE announces UA to receive Ohio Reach Postsecondary designation


In response to an announcement made in the spring, Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) Chancellor Randy Gardner named the first group of Ohio colleges, universities and Ohio Technical Centers to earn the Ohio Reach Postsecondary designation for their efforts to support foster care-connected students. The University of Akron (UA) is pleased to announce its inclusion on that list.

Dr. John Messina, vice president for student affairs, shared his enthusiasm with this designation and its promising benefits for UA students. "The University of Akron proudly announces its Ohio Reach Postsecondary designation, reflecting our dedication to foster care-connected students. This recognition underscores our unwavering commitment as a university of opportunity. It's a testament to our compassionate community, and I'm proud to be part of an institution prioritizing student well-being. This designation inspires us to empower foster care-connected students to achieve their career and life trajectories.”

The Ohio Reach Postsecondary designation is awarded to those campuses meeting criteria that depict their support of students with experience in foster care or kinship. Ohio Reach is a network of professionals, advocates, and students across Ohio determined to support former foster youth on their education journey. Ohio Reach, administered through the Ohio Children’s Alliance, provides resources to institutions of higher education, child welfare agencies, and foster care alumni enrolled in higher education to support their academic success.

Anna Ball, senior associate director of ZipAssist, will offer extra assistance to students at UA who have experience in foster care, encompassing mentorship, peer connections, and increased access to campus resources.

“If they don’t have a trusted adult to help guide them, some foster-connected youth may be especially attracted to schools with the Ohio Reach Postsecondary Designation knowing that they’ll receive support, if needed,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “This extra support and guidance could make a meaningful difference and help a student continue along a successful path to live their version of the American dream.”

“Ohio takes pride in offering diverse opportunities when it comes to higher education options, and in making those available to all students,” Chancellor Gardner said. “This designation, similar to our Collegiate Purple Star designation for military-connected students, recognizes those colleges, universities, and Ohio Technical Centers that go above and beyond to support those students with foster care connections.”

The initial Ohio Reach Postsecondary announcement was made in May. Criteria for receiving the Ohio Reach Postsecondary designation, recommended by the Ohio Reach Coalition with input from alumni of care through the Ohio Youth Action Board, include:

  • A designated campus liaison
  • Champions in various campus departments
  • The ability to connect students to resources (basic needs, food, housing)
  • Community-building opportunities for students
  • Targeted outreach to students, and efforts made to identify and support them
  • Expanding the eligibility of on-campus services
  • Staff training on working with alumni of foster care
  • Succession/transition planning
  • Data collection
  • Mentorship

Additional criteria that are recommended, but not required, include year-round housing, career counseling, community leadership opportunities, and in-depth tutoring resources.

“Foster youth can face many challenges in their young lives,” said Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Matt Damschroder. “These institutions are providing stability and a pathway to success that will help lift foster youth and propel them into reaching their full potential.”

The designation takes effect immediately. More information about the Ohio Reach Postsecondary designation can be found at highered.ohio.gov/ohio-reach or at uakron.edu/zipassist.

Media Contact: Cristine Boyd; cboyd@uakron.edu; 330-972-6476