By: The Curious Counselor
As an educator and student services professional, the recent onslaught of violence against African-American youth, particularly males, has created a quandary of sorts as we begin another academic year. I find it immensely important to critically examine the retention and persistence policies in community colleges as a solution to the harsh perceptions toward African American youth that has been ingrained in our country’s social fabric.
A number of researchers have developed theses and respective practices for promoting retention, persistence, and ultimately, student success. One of the most compelling and poignant ideas floating around the educational advising blogosphere is social involvement behaviors as a construct built into first-year student programming. Vince Tinto, a leading educational researcher, broadly defines social involvement behaviors as: relationships with staff; building peer relationships; personal experiences; using campus facilities; and extracurricular activities.
So…what should a successful first-year experience look like for African American students? Prestigious universities like University of California, Los Angeles and Fayetteville State University in North Carolina offer the Freshman Summer Program (FSP) and the Freshman Year Initiative (FYI) respectively. At both universities, students are provided comprehensive, student success driven programming which involve academic and personal support services tailored to individual student needs. Students are provided remedial math and writing services, peer advisors, and targeted course scheduling/patterns. Additionally, students are exposed to the campus environment in a way that promotes connections to the staff, faculty, current students, and surrounding communities.
These programs could be easily replicated to fit the demographics and environmental norms at community colleges across the country. Whether newly matriculating from high school, returning from combat, or retraining for vocational/career advancement, a strong first-year experience for new students is an integral facet of higher education programming. Hopefully this inspires other educational professionals to begin to develop and aim for social involvement as a key methodology in student engagement.