Tabler family

Mike and Mary Tabler pose for a photo with their two sons, Aaron and Andre. Andre recently won a $10,000 scholarship through the Ohio Department of Health.

MANSFIELD -- Andre Tabler doesn’t fully realize it, but he’s a pretty lucky kid. 

The 6-year-old Mansfield resident was the final person to have his name drawn Friday afternoon for a $10,000 scholarship from the Ohio Department of Health's Vax-2-School program. 

Andre had big plans when he found out he’d won the lottery. He imagined purchasing a mansion and a gray Tesla with his winnings.

“We had to explain to Andre that he doesn't get the money right now,” his mother Mary said with a chuckle. “You got to keep doing well in school and you've got to graduate and then you can use it for college or trade school or whatever you might want to do."

The Ohio Vax-2-School scholarship program was created by ODH as a way to encourage younger residents to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Any Ohioan between the ages of 5 and 25 who received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 1 was eligible to win one of 150 $10,000 scholarships or five $100,000 scholarships.

Andre Tabler

Mansfield's Andre Tabler, 6, was one of 150 young Ohioans to win a $10,000 Vax-2-School scholarship.

Tabler will receive the funds in the form of an Ohio CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Savings Plan, a tax-free mutual fund. Money from the plan can be used at any accredited college, university, technical school, trade school or career program in Ohio.

Andre’s parents, Mike and Mary, said their choice to vaccinate themselves and their children was not meant to be a political statement. They simply felt it was the best choice for their family.

“It’s just us trying to keep our families as healthy as we possibly can,” Mary said. “We believe the science of it and that's just our personal choice to have them vaccinated and to be vaccinated ourselves.”

The couple found out Andre won from his principal, Regina Sackman, who saw the news release. As of Saturday morning, the family had not yet been contacted by ODH.

“She asked if we had been contacted. I'm like ‘What happened now?’” Mary said. “When she told me I was kind of stunned. I’m still kind of stunned.”

Mike recalled saying a prayer after signing his sons up for the contest. In that moment, he felt confident that a positive outcome was coming.

“When I said the prayer, I just knew," he recalled. "I don’t know how to explain that.” 

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Andre's mother described him as quite the comedian. 

Mike works as an equipment operator at Forrest Machine Products. Mary is the chief deputy clerk at the Richland County Probate Court. She described the family as simple people with a simple faith. The scholarship is a blessing they're grateful for and determined to steward wisely.

"It's confirmation that they're headed in the right direction, that we just have to keep working at what we're doing with them and raising them and making sure they get the best education possible," she said.

“How can I be even more deserving of this blessing? Let me get ready for it.”

Education has always been important to the Tabler family.

"It opens up doors," Mary said. "There's another life outside of Mansfield and through an education, you can take what you know and you can go anywhere in the world and do different things, experience different things. That's what we want for them."

The couple said they appreciate the education their sons are receiving. Both attend Mansfield's Springmill STEM Elementary School.

“They’re a very good school. They have a wonderful staff there. I really appreciate their help and what they do for our kids," Mary said. 

Nine-year-old Aaron has already found a passion for coding and hopes to become a video game programmer.

Andre is still discovering his gifts and talents. His favorite subject in school is reading.

"We’re anxious to see what the future is gonna hold. He's just six right now, but who's he gonna be in about another 12 years?" Mary reflected. "It's exciting to see these kids growing up in these times.

"Even with the sadness and the pandemic and the tragedies are happening, it's still exciting to see what these kids are becoming. The majority of them are better than we believe or even know.”

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie@richlandsource.com