Balancing the complexities of earning a college degree and raising a family can be a challenging process, particularly for low-income, single parent students. Traci Lewis, program director of Ohio State’s ACCESS Collaborative, works each and every day to help these students overcome barriers to college access and success.
A 27-year Ohio State employee and alumna, Traci’s staff journey began as a recruiter for the College of Social Work. She served the college for 17 years as an Academic Counselor before leading the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s ACCESS Collaborative.
The ACCESS Collaborative, established in 1989, is an academic and social support program to assist low-income, single parent students who are pursuing an Ohio State education.
Full-time undergraduate students who have custody of their children and meet minimum GPA requirements are eligible for the program, which provides services for parenting and life skills, child development and financial planning. Students also receive priority class registration to help balance school and family needs, as well as a peer network of students who are also parents.
“Social workers often see a lot of pain and negativity, but this is so rewarding,” Traci said. “I get up every day and love going to work!”
She enjoys the opportunity to support students who may be experiencing an extremely vulnerable moment in their lives: maneuvering both a college education and parenthood. Traci’s greatest joy is seeing her students walk across the commencement stage to receive their Ohio State degrees.
Townhome apartments in downtown Columbus, part of the Columbus Scholar House community
“I couldn’t ask for a better job,” she said. Ohio State recognized Traci for her tremendous contributions with a 2016 Distinguished Staff Award.
Looking ahead, she is most excited about new ACCESS Collaborative initiatives in affordable housing. ACCESS partnered with Community Properties of Ohio and the YMCA to provide affordable family housing and onsite child care services to ACCESS Collaborative students. The community, called Columbus Scholar House, is the only such program in Ohio. It’s located in downtown Columbus’s King Lincoln District and offers two- and three-bedroom apartment homes to low-income, full-time students with families.
“We know we’ve done our job when we’ve helped a student break the cycle of poverty by supporting them as they earned their college degree,” Traci said. “It has a huge impact not only on them, but also their children and their future generations.”