LORAIN — One recent Lorain High School graduate isn’t worrying how to pay for college anymore, thanks to a generous donation from a Northeast Ohio celebrity.
Jaiden Morales, 17, was one of eight incoming Kent State University freshmen selected to receive a full scholarship, including room and board and textbooks, from comedian Steve Harvey.
The “Family Feud” host awarded the scholarships through The Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation in honor of a student from his former fraternity who died in 2017, according to a news release from the university.
Students were chosen in part based on academic performance and extracurricular involvement.
Morales said when he was looking at colleges — initially choosing between Kent State, Ohio University and the University of Kentucky — the cost to attend anywhere was starting to add up fast and he was relying on loans and smaller scholarships to pay for his education.
But that reality changed when he got a call April 19, Good Friday, from Kent State’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion telling him he didn’t have to worry about paying for college anymore.
He said the only question he could manage was how to cancel the loans he’d taken out; he had to call back later to get more details.
“My mom wasn’t home when I got the call, so I’m just sitting on my bed like rocking. I was pacing at one point, I was pacing back and forth and crying,” he said. “But by the time my mom got home from the store I was already just kind of like, ‘OK I can hold it together.’ She walked in the house and I just gave her a really big hug. ... I was like, ‘I don’t have to pay for college.’ She was like, ‘What do you mean you don’t have to pay for college?’ She couldn’t even get out a full word from the shock. And then she told my grandma, my grandpa — my grandpa started crying.”
On top of getting the scholarship, Morales and the other students were flown to Hollywood for a taping of Harvey’s talk show, “Steve,” which took about nine hours between prepping what to say and getting hair and makeup ready, Morales said. Morales said he was up for about 48 hours straight because of flying out, the taping, visiting Universal Studios and flying back — then he attended Lorain High School’s prom and after prom right after his return.
Morales chose Kent State in part after participating in the university’s TRIO Upward Bound pre-college program, which helps first-generation, low-income students succeed at the university. Through that program he spent five weeks taking classes on campus at Kent, and another week visiting colleges outside Ohio. He also will be part of the Provost Leadership Academy during his freshman year and the Men Empowerment Network within the Student Multicultural Center. Harvey also donated $10,000 to that program, which supports academic, personal and professional development of African American men at the university.
Morales plans to major in digital media production, with a minor in photography, after spending the past four years in Lorain’s TV20 group, which covers the district’s sporting events, meetings, musical groups and other events. He’s traveled with the marching band to Detroit and Chicago and plans to cover its performance in the Citrus Bowl later this year. He said he taught himself how to do the instant replays for the district’s football team and wants to work in sports or TV production.
Morales is spending the summer working on the seventh floor of Lorain City Hall as an administrative assistant. Even with moving an hour away in mid-August, he said he plans to come back to Lorain often.
“I don’t know what I can do with digital media around here, so I might have to move, but we’re still going to be here,” he said.
The other students who received scholarships are Lamont Averett, of Barberton; Zethram Jackson, of Akron; Mark Jenkins, of Barberton; Johnell Parnell, of Akron; Kelvon Gibson, of Cleveland; Anthony Morrison Jr., of Cleveland; and Craig Johnson of Springdale, Maryland.