Ohio State Student Leads by Partnering in Community

By Kaitlin Bradley
Outreach and Engagement Communications Student Intern

In recent years, the founding of Ohio State's Second-Year Transformational Experience Program (STEP) has helped multiple students facilitate community programs through its fellowship grant funding. One such student is DaVonti' Haynes, a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in Public Affairs, who has been innovating the way educational programs are extended outside of the university since his freshman year. Haynes has been instrumental in creating multiple programs at Ohio State, but specifically A Day in the Life of a Buckeye and Mentor-A-Buckeye have been personal projects.

"I have done both the planning and the ground work. A Day in the Life I created my freshman year through Undergraduate Student Government and it was later taken over by Student Life, who I now work with. That program works with five school districts," Haynes recounted. "Mentor-A-Buckeye I created my junior year through Office of Student Life Social Change and with this program we pair OSU students with a 9th grader and a community mentor, so it's a multi-tiered approach."

Mentor a Buckeye group photo

DaVonti' Haynes, front row third from right, and the Mentor-A-Buckeye team (photo courtesy of DaVonti' Haynes).

As Haynes's programs grew in notoriety, the need for these programs was instantly recognized by not only Ohio State, but also by multiple community partners. These programs have grown so much that while Haynes is still instrumental to their development, the university has provided a strong backbone, both financially and socially.

"Because all of my programs have been through Student Life, the department has been very receptive and supportive. So they have been very instrumental in helping the program grow and helping me as a leader. They hired on two more students to help me with A Day in the Life and we now reach five school districts and 300 students versus the original 65 students," Haynes said.

He noted that OSU Extension and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences have also partnered on the project in reaching students located outside of Columbus and in rural areas.

Haynes's work with the university and community partners has expanded his personal experience as a student, leader, and future professional. "Working on these programs has affected my experience tremendously! I want to work with urban and rural students, to encourage them to explore the idea of attending a four-year university. We need to stop encouraging these kids to only consider the trade schools and show them they have options," said Haynes.

Dr. Patricia Cunningham II, director of Student Life Social Change, oversees multiple community engagement programs and acts as a mentor for DaVonti' in many of his university endeavors, such as A Day in the Life and Mentor-A-Buckeye. Cunningham has helped to guide Haynes on the progress and journey of learning he has experienced and the unique brand of leadership he has developed for himself.

"DaVonti' is still growing into his style. He has learned that being a leader sometimes means compromise and letting go of a thought around control," she said. "Leadership many times cannot be labeled. I know that DaVonti' has ruled out the styles he does not like. I would be confident in saying he prefers to lead by example."

Laura Kraus, director of program development at I Know I Can and former associate director of the Economic Access Initiative at Ohio State, shared her experiences from not only working directly with Haynes on his projects, but also observing the strength and determination he has brought to his endeavors. "DaVonti' has become the type of student who can hold his own in complex conversations around social issues," she said. "I think DaVonti' has become a young leader who can both initiate an idea and carry it through to fruition. Working with schools can be complicated and political, one needs to have a dogged determination to do what's best for kids—he has demonstrated patience and perseverance."

group photo

Photo courtesy of DaVonti' Haynes.

Haynes community involvement and leadership has increased in range in the last few years since he began these projects. He has gained traction in the community from his experience interning with Columbus City Schools, under the supervision of superintendent Dr. Dan Good. Good observed Haynes's progress throughout his time interning and beyond.

"I measure growth when individuals move beyond curiosity to innovation. DaVonti' realized he needed to learn about how learning was happening in different settings and he began to take more and more initiative," Good said. "There's a business and administrative side to our agency. DaVonti exhibited growth in terms of coming in almost naive to the organizational structure and operations then mining all of the work, and then imagining possibilities."

Good shared that one of the biggest assets that DaVonti' developed while working in the department was his ability to reach out both internally and externally to build projects. The "synergy" of departments, as Good described, requires an independent spirit. As Good shared from his experiences with him, Haynes is an individual to be recognized and from whom to learn. Haynes has innovated multiple projects in his time at Ohio State that have helped so many both in and out of the university, and he will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future.

"People might underestimate him, but I would never underestimate the mature approach he takes to learning and achieving results," Good said. "He is a model for a life-long learner, he's always absorbing for the sake of changing to better the world, focused on healing and peace. He's methodical, thoughtful and effective. I've appreciated learning from DaVonti' and I think everyone needs to take time to learn from him the way that he says that he learns from others; he is someone for everyone to watch."


DaVont' Haynes was also recently named as the recpient of the university's 2016 Undergraduate Student Award for Excellence in Community Service