College Takes Steps to Retain Minority Students Through Mentoring Program

Manchester, Conn., (February 17, 2010) . . . Retaining minority students, particularly African American and Latino male students, draws great concern from Manchester Community College (MCC) faculty, staff and administrators. According to the African American Male Research Study conducted at MCC, first-term black and Hispanic students are less likely than their white classmates to return for a second semester. In addition, research has also discovered that among first-term minority students, their average GPA was 1.62, compared to the average first-term GPA for white students of 2.14. This results in more minority students being placed on academic probation compared to white students.

MCC has taken steps to address this issue with the implementation of the Brother-2-Brother and Sister-2-Sister mentoring programs. The Brother-2-Brother and Sister-2-Sister mentoring programs were launched in fall 2008, and were created to address institutional concerns regarding the academic success rates of Hispanic and African American students. The goal of the programs is to provide additional support, mentoring and encouragement to students in achieving their academic and professional goals. The programs are committed to the personal, academic, social and cultural development of each student.

“Many of these students really don’t know the formula for succeeding in college,” stated Robert Turner, counselor and program coordinator for the Brother-2-Brother program. “Time management and studying skills are very important and many of our students work full-time, have families and find it difficult to balance work, their personal life and college,” stated Turner.

A major component of the Brother-2-Brother and Sister-2-Sister mentoring programs are pairing students with full-time faculty and staff members to serve as mentors for the academic year. Throughout the academic year, mentors and mentees build on this relationship and meet on a regular basis to discuss goals, academic resources and student support services, as well as getting involved in college life. “Everyone in the program, whether they are your mentor or not, really encourages us academically and socially,” stated Silvester Baez, MCC student and Brother-2-Brother participant. “The program encourages you to be more open, meet different people, work hard in school and get involved. The [staff] really go out of their way to help, and they demonstrate that they really care,” stated Baez.

The office of Student Retention Services works directly with students that find themselves on academic probation. The office tracks student meetings with counselors and mentors and the information collected is reviewed in conjunction with grade performance to determine if a student’s probationary status should be changed. “Our low retention rates for African American and Hispanic students call us to commit to improvement of support services for them,” stated Florence Sheils, director of the office of Student Retention Services. “The activities of the Sister-2-Sister and Brother-2-Brother programs for our students of color are moving forward quickly. It is really critical that everyone take responsibility for retention, including students. MCC staff and faculty are well known for their commitment to students and I expect that will never change.”

The Brother-2-Brother program was recently awarded a grant by the KnowHow2GO Connecticut Post Secondary Access and Success program in cooperation with the African American Affairs Commission. The purpose of the grant is to support economically disadvantaged and/or first-generation students in gaining access and succeeding-academically, socially and financially-in post secondary education. Low-achieving minority students are the core focus of the mentoring programs, however, the program is also open to high-achieving students, who may serve as peer mentors to other students. This grant will help to expand the Brother-2-Brother program by offering additional workshops and adding two peer mentors who will assist 15 students each, linking them to appropriate resources that improve academic success, as well as help them to integrate into college life.

Workshops on effective communication skills, transfer options, testing anxiety, study skills, business etiquette and financial literacy are a few of the programs that will be offered this spring. “We really want students to walk away with a greater appreciation and value for their education,” stated Ta’Shema Odoms, counselor and program coordinator for Sister-2-Sister program. “Ultimately, we want to help develop the whole student, so they have the necessary tools and resources to pursue, achieve and maintain academic and social excellence,” added Turner.

For more information on the Brother-2-Brother mentoring program, contact Robert Turner at rturner@mcc.commnet.edu; for more information on the Sister-2-Sister program, contact Ta’Shema Odoms at todoms@mcc.commnet.edu.

Students of any age who possess the desire to pursue higher education are welcome at Manchester Community College. MCC is proud of its academic excellence, new facilities, flexible schedules, small classes, low tuition and faculty with both academic and “real world” credentials. The College offers over 60 programs, transfer options, financial aid and scholarships, as well as access to baccalaureate degrees through guaranteed admissions programs with several universities. MCC is situated on a park-like campus and is easily accessible from I-84.

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News Item Posted On: February 17, 2010
For Additional Information Contact: Endia DeCordova-Murphy at (860) 512-2914