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They live in Hamilton, so their student debt gets paid: What residents are saying about this lauded program

The foundation on Thursday held a reception for the “Talent Attraction Program” scholarship recipients, who can have some of their student-loan debt paid off. They must have at least $5,000 of outstanding student debt to qualify, must move into the neighborhoods of Downtown/Central Business District, Riverview, German Village, Dayton Lane or Rossville, and must be willing to become involved in the community.

The program is the first of its kind in Ohio, Mayor Pat Moeller said.

Foundation President and CEO John Guidugli said the organization has been awarding scholarships since 1954, and it awards more than $1 million per year in many types of scholarships.

Samantha Wyatt, 24, originally from Fairfield, studied middle-childhood education at the University of Cincinnati and just finished her second year of teaching at Fairwood Elementary School, where she teaches sixth grade.

“It’s beautiful, everyone in the community is happy, excited,” she said.

She really enjoys her sixth graders: “They’re independent enough, but they still want your approval. Still nice, still innocent.”

Samantha Wyatt, originally from Fairfield, teaches at Fairwood Elementary School and is having some of her student loans repaid by the Hamilton Community Foundation because she moved to one of the city’s core neighborhoods. MIKE RUTLEDGE/STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

Josh Chaney, 31, attended Muskingum University, where he studied political science and English before going to work for that school in communications and marketing and thenaccepting a job this year at Miami University as senior director of marketing.

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After Chaney accepted the Miami job, he heard about Hamilton’s scholarship program from an administrator at Muskingum.

The administrator told him, “Hamilton, that’s the town that they’ll give you a scholarship to live downtown.”

“And I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And he said, ‘No, really. Look it up. I saw it on the news.’ So I Googled it and I found out about it,” Chaney said. “We were considering Hamilton already. That really helped seal the deal for us. A community that’s willing to support us in this day, to pay off our student debt, is a community that we feel has the same values that we hold and we want to contribute to ourselves.”

Chaney and Kelly Florian, 25, live in the Marcum Apartments, newly built in Hamilton’s downtown, immediately south of the city’s award-winning Marcum Park.

Kelly Florian, left, and Josh Chaney, both of Coshocton, moved to the Marcum Apartments in Hamilton’s downtown and are having some of their college-loan debt paid off by the Hamilton Community Foundation because they moved into a core Hamilton neighborhood. MIKE RUTLEDGE/STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

Florian works as communications manager for the Ohio Travel Association in the tourism industry. Their offices are in Columbus, but she works remotely from Hamilton.

“It is really cool. I love it,” she said.

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“We grew up in a very small town (Coshocton) that suffered from job loss, manufacturing loss,” Chaney said. “So we had a really strong feeling that we wanted to give back to a similar community where we lived. So we avoided Cincinnati. That wasn’t going to be our place.

“We chose Hamilton, and we’re really happy we did.”

Coshocton, which is 63 miles east of Columbus, has about 11,000 residents, well below Hamilton’s 62,000.

“Hamilton’s in a state of resurgence right now,” Chaney said. “It’s a great time to be in Hamilton. I think that’s what I’ve enjoyed the most, is that we’re really here at the right time, to help contribute, to make a really significant impact on the community.

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“It’s much more vibrant here. There’s a lot more hope here. But we love Coshocton. We loved contributing to our town when we were there, and we wanted to carry that forward, the next place we lived.”

Here’s what Florian said she likes: “It’s really vibrant, there’s a lot to do, and there’s a lot of history here that I wasn’t aware of before. It’s also growing.”

She also enjoys that there’s a lot to do in surrounding areas and nearby counties.

Florian said living in Hamilton’s downtown means she is near “lots of great restaurants, like Hyde’s, the High Street Cafe, the Fitton Center (for Creative Arts) is right down the street,” Florian said. “I love Marcum Park. I love to hike and run and walk, and Hamilton has a lot of natural parks, lots of outdoor recreation, and I love food, and there’s so many different local restaurants.

“Hyde’s so far is my favorite place to go.”

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