BARBERTON: When Jason Miller dropped out of Wright State at 18, he thought that waiting tables was going to be his future.
That led to selling cars and even working for one day as a temp in a factory before he reversed course and enrolled at the University of Akron. Now he wants to help other adults make the same about face.
Miller, 39, is heading the Barberton office of College Now Greater Cleveland, the oldest nonprofit advising service of its kind nationwide.
The organization provides counseling services to about 25,000 students and adult learners yearly in Cuyahoga and Lorain counties and at Highland High School in Medina County. It has signed a contract to do the same next year at Akron Public Schools.
This, though, is College Now’s first office outside of Cleveland. At a media conference announcing the new partnership on Wednesday, Barberton officials clearly were thrilled that the Magic City was picked for the expansion.
This is a “potential game changer,” said Jim Stonkus, executive director of the Barberton Community Foundation, which provided $70,000 to open an office at the Barberton Public Library.
Saying “yes” to College Now’s request to come to Barberton was an “extremely easy decision,” said Scot Stevenson, president of the library’s board of trustees.
College Now aims to improve the low rate of higher education among adults in Barberton.
According to the U.S. Census, just 11 percent of Barberton residents over 25 have bachelor’s degrees, compared to 29 percent of adults in Summit County.
Without college or advanced training, many Barberton residents cannot take advantage of the many job openings that are available.
Lee Friedman, chief executive office of College Now, said that 70,000 people are unemployed in Northeast Ohio, yet 40,000 jobs are available every day.
Many of the positions require training or credentials that the job seekers don’t have, though.
Miller will aim to put a dent in that by providing advice on careers, financial aid, postsecondary options. GED programs, scholarships, trade schools and more, officials said Wednesday. He will try to help adults resolve issues that may be keeping them out of higher education, such as debt.
“We understand from our experience how their barriers to college completion differ from those of students going to college straight from high school,” Friedman said in a news release.
As for Miller, a layoff from his car sales job fueled his re-entry to college in 2008. He got an associate degree in paralegal studies and a bachelor’s degree in public relations at UA.
He said he applied for one job — the one he got at College Now.
He will be available by appointment from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. The library phone number is 330-745-1194.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3729.