“My name is Julian Colbert, and I am color blind. Not in the medically diagnosed sense of the word, but rather only when it comes specifically to people. I do not see color when I look at individuals, I see ideas and possibilities.”
So begins the essay that earned Lorain County Community College graduate Colbert a full academic scholarship to The Ohio State University as a Morrill Scholar.
“I live for achievements,” he says. “I’ve had some success, but this has definitely been the greatest recognition I’ve gotten.”
His journey to OSU started with LCCC’s College Credit Plus (CCP) program where, as a high school student, he earned college credit, and eventually, an associate of arts and an associate of science degree. An avid learner, Colbert was a natural fit for the CCP program. He enrolled during his freshman year at Clearview High School in Lorain.
“I knew this was a path for him, because of how smart and studious he is,” says his mother, Randi Colbert. “To be able to take classes and get high school and college credit and still be able to play sports and have a social life was truly an amazing thing. I absolutely recommend it to everyone.”
Colbert says the ability to take college courses at his high school made CCP appealing.
“I was able to spend time with my peers but do advanced work,” he says.“As a 14-year-old coming into high school, I wasn’t in class with older students, and that made me really comfortable.”
The path to two degrees
Colbert was a Division III state qualifier in wrestling and played four years of varsity football as a tight end and linebacker who became team captain. Division III college programs showed interest, but as impressive as his athletic career was, his academic career was more promising, and CCP challenged him with classes that raised the bar.
“It’s priceless,” says Robin Dahman, a chemical and life sciences teacher at Clearview who also teaches CCP classes as an LCCC adjunct professor. “For academically advanced students like Julian, you’re taking away the monotony of a classroom they really don’t belong in. We’re able to challenge them and add rigor to their program.”
His work ethic and self-described perfectionistic personality allowed him to speed through his high school requirements in three years, all while amassing LCCC credits. And Dahman, with whom he had most of his classes, encouraged him to take courses he may not have otherwise considered.
“He’s a much deeper, more critical thinker than any student I’ve had,” Dahman says. “He thinks outside the box. He’s analytical. He has an infectious personality. He’s driven and determined. He wanted to learn more and be better. I remember messaging him how proud I was of him, and he is continuing to make us proud.”
Colbert says he took as many classes as possible, and during his junior year at Clearview, he asked Dahman if he might be close to earning a certificate.
“She added up my hours, and I was only two semesters away from a degree,” he says. “After she did an audit, she was like, ‘Go for it!’”
Growing up in Lorain — the International City, where people of different ethnicities and backgrounds co-exist — Colbert learned that diversity extends beyond skin color or ethnicity and involves socio-economic circumstances, as well.
“I’ve been to houses where the dad wasn’t in the family and the mom left the kids to fend for themselves with not much in the fridge,” he says. “Those kids were my friends. Then I went to a friend’s house where their parents own a business and their house was three or four times bigger than mine. It really taught me to keep my eyes open and form my own opinions.”
During his senior year of high school, when he took classes on the LCCC campus, Colbert continued to meet students from a wide array of backgrounds and circumstances — from high school students to more traditional ones, working parents, midlife career changers and lifelong learners — all bonded by their desire to improve their lives.
“Being exposed to so many different kinds of people reinforced the idea not to judge people,” says Colbert, 18, whose mother is a product of an Irish-Italian upbringing and whose father comes from African-American, Irish, German and Native American lineage. “That’s the most important thing I’ve gotten out of attending LCCC. There is never a reason to judge anyone. LCCC has helped me mature in that respect, beyond what I would have been capable of if I just attended high school classes. The less you focus on race, the more people forget about it.”
He says no matter where you come from, the drive to succeed is critical to earning what you want in life, and his participation in football and wrestling taught him there are two sides to talent.
“In sports, you have kids who are born with talent, and they are good at what they do,” he says. “Then you have those who have to work harder to get where they are. I beat many kids who were born better athletes than me. And in school, many kids are born borderline geniuses, but that doesn’t stop me from going into a classroom and applying myself and finding things to learn. I might not ever be the smartest kid in any of my classes, but I will do the work and apply myself. I won’t ever let that stop me.”
He encourages others to try, even if they might fail.
“Often people are afraid to pursue things because they don’t have the talent, but most of the people with talent won’t work as hard as you,” he says. “It pays to work hard.”