PROFILE: Program Reflects UC's Commitment To Cincinnati Public Schools
As the program coordinator for the Cincinnati Pride Grant, Tyree Gaines personifies the University of Cincinnati’s commitment to placing students first and its emphasis on public engagement.
Date: 2/21/2005 8:00:00 AM
By: Jacob Dirr
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Other Contact: Dawn Fuller
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Peter Griga
Tyree Gaines says she had a tough childhood. By seventh grade she knew that the only way to transcend her situation and achieve her greatest potential rested on attaining a college education. That still rings true with every student at the University of Cincinnati, she says.
Gaines, the Cincinnati Pride Grant program coordinator, and her team of hand-picked Cincinnati Pride mentors make sure that whenever obstacles present themselves to Pride participants, someone is there to help them continue their path to success.
The Cincinnati Pride Grant, in combination with federal, state and intuitional aid, equals the full cost of tuition and a book allowance for graduates of Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) who meet financial and academic criteria.
The grant can be renewed for up to four years, provided students are in good academic standing, remain eligible for federal grants and maintain at least 12 credit hours a quarter, along with other guidelines. To ensure eligibility, graduating CPS students need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) and be admitted to UC.
While the grant enables students to pay for their school costs, it also serves to implement the values that help make the college experience a success. The program serves to foster the transition from high school to college until students’ junior year at UC. For example, students are expected to attend one workshop a month, focusing on issues such as maintaining healthy relationships and attaining goals.
“I love it. I miss the classrooms,” says Gaines, a former Holmes High School teacher, “but I do love working with the (Cincinnati Pride) students. It’s fulfilling to be here for those first two years and to provide students with a resource on campus where someone will listen to them.”
After graduating from Morehead State University with a degree in secondary education and English Literature, Gaines came back to Cincinnati hoping to teach in the Cincinnati Public Schools. The Withrow High School graduate could not find any immediate positions, so she took a job teaching across the river in Kentucky. When she came to UC last May to begin her job as program coordinator, Gaines says she was happy to get the chance to positively affect the lives of CPS students, even if it was after they left high school.
“It’s not an effort for me; I don’t try to inspire people. I’m just me. I see so many parts of me in each of my students. I am very honest and very open with my students,” Gaines says. “I was the first person to graduate from college in my family. That says a lot. So I know what its like to be a first-generation college student and it’s not easy. I relate to them that way so it’s not an effort for me.”
Gaines provides students with a secure atmosphere to talk about and resolve whatever is on their minds. Whether it’s career indecision, a summer job, help in math class or help at home, she strives to make herself accessible.
Oftentimes Gains says the answers are as easy as a visit to an academic advisor or the career development center. However, Gaines says she can only suggest to her students where they can receive additional help. The responsibility is theirs. She says, “I refer you, but it’s up to you to go.”
This year Gaines employed four second-year Cincinnati Pride students to assist in ensuring her students become integrated into the UC community. Gaines or one of her mentors contacts each student at least once a week to say hello, either by phone or by e-mail.
“I think the best way to interact with students is with their peers.” says Gaines. “If you see someone who is from the same area you grew up in, same circumstances, they have a 3.5 GPA and they are working, that speaks volumes.”
Gaines credits much of the success of her program to the university’s strategic plan, UC|21: Defining the New Urban Research University, which keeps student life at its core.
“I think now I would consider UC,” she says, “I’d look at all the resources that are here –the way UC tries to reach out to the students at orientation. Any chance they have, they are out there trying to figure out, ‘How can we reach the students?’”
Gaines, who is also a mother of five, says she has taken it one step further and tried to figure out how she can not only reach her students, but in turn allow them to help themselves reach for their dreams.
“The title is appropriate; these students are the pride of Cincinnati,” she says while thumping her desk. “My coin phrase in the classroom is, ‘You are at risk; you are at risk for success.’”
Graduating CPS students who are interested in the Cincinnati Pride Grant can contact UC’s Scholarship and New Student Financial Aid Center at 513-556-2420 for more information.