Two weeks before he got the phone call, Zethran Jackson wasn't sure he would be going to college this fall.

The 18-year-old Buchtel high school graduate didn't know how he would be able to afford tuition at Kent State University, where he had planned to major in biology and ultimately become a surgeon.

Steve Harvey took that worry away.

The former Kent student, comedian, talk show and "Family Feud" host has agreed to cover the college costs for eight incoming freshmen, including Jackson.

"I felt like I could finally get a fresh breath of air without having to stress over financial problems for college," Jackson said.

The Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation is collaborating with Kent State to provide the scholarships, which amount to about $23,000 per student, per year. The students must maintain a 2.5 grade point average for the scholarships to renew each semester.

The students flew to Los Angeles last month to tape Harvey's talk show "Steve," which aired Wednesday.

Five of the students are participants in Kent State’s TRIO Upward Bound pre-college program, including two Barberton High School graduates. TRIO programs help students overcome class, social, academic and cultural barriers to higher education. Two of the students attend Ginn Academy in Cleveland, and one student, a mentee in the Steve Harvey Mentoring Program, is from Springdale, Maryland.

The foundation also made a $10,000 commitment to Kent State’s Men Empowerment Network.

The total combined commitment is $736,000, said Sonya Williams, interim executive director of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, who appeared on the talk show with the students.

For Jackson, it was the difference between starting school this fall, months after graduating high school, and waiting possibly up to two years before earning enough money to pay for school on his own.

"I’m able to pursue my dreams without anything holding me back …," Jackson said. "I was so happy he was able to give me that. I’m going to show him that he gave it to the right people."

Also earning the scholarship was fellow Buchtel classmate and TRIO Upward Bound participant Johnell Parnell, who was also thinking through how to pay for college when he learned of the scholarship.

He was surprised, he said, as there was only a selection process with no application. In fact, he feared he was a little delirious because he was sleeping when he got the call. At the same time, Parnell was not surprised at all.

"All this hard work and dedication … I’ve earned this, you know?" he said. "I’m not getting this for no reason. I’m getting this because I’ve pushed myself to the limit."

Parnell, who was raised by a single mother with the help of several uncles and other family, said he doesn't know yet what he wants to study in college.

"I just know that whatever degree or major I decide to pursue, I just want to help people like everybody’s helped me throughout these last couple years," he said.

Harvey, who grew up in Cleveland, visited Kent State in April for the 50th anniversary of the Psi Gamma Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, where he pledged while a student. The scholarships are in memory of Devin Moore, a Kent State student and member of the Psi Gamma Chapter who died in 2017 while playing basketball at Kent State’s Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

The following students also will receive scholarships:

• Lamont Averett of Barberton is a participant in Kent State’s TRIO Upward Bound Classic Academy pre-college program. He is a graduate of Barberton High School and plans to pursue a major in history and to enter the field of education.

• Mark Jenkins of Barberton is a participant in Kent State’s TRIO Upward Bound Math Science pre-college program. He is a graduate of Barberton High School and plans to pursue a major in criminal justice.

• Jaiden Morales of Lorain is a participant in Kent State’s TRIO Upward Bound Health Professions pre-college program. He is a graduate of Lorain High School. Morales earned an associate degree while in high school.

• Kelvon Gibson of Cleveland is a graduate of Ginn Academy High School in Cleveland, where he was an honor roll student with a 3.2 grade point average. In college, Gibson would like to study athletic training.

• Anthony Morris Jr. of Cleveland is a graduate of the Ginn Academy High School in Cleveland. He was valedictorian of the Class of 2019.

• Craig Johnson of Springdale, Maryland, graduated from Charles Herbert Flowers High School. He will be a finance major.

 

Staff writer Rick Armon contributed to this report. Contact reporter Jennifer Pignolet at jpignolet@thebeaconjournal.com, at 330-996-3216 or on Twitter @JenPignolet.