Step Up program aims to help black student retention

Ashlee Clark

new program has been created to address problems students may have as they come closer to putting on their caps and gowns.

Step Up, a program created in May, will help black juniors and seniors from Kentucky graduate through peer mentoring and group discussions about college life.

Peer advisers and faculty members will help the students in the program in areas such as developing a degree program and improving their study skills, said Ingrid Woods, assistant director of the academic advising and retention center and a Step Up coordinator.

“I think primarily this shows the students that we’re taking an active interest in that they graduate,” Woods said.

Step Up will help administrators meet some of the retention guidelines set by the Kentucky Plan, an initiative to retain and recruit black Kentuckians in higher education, said C.J. Woods, director of the office of diversity programs.

The Office of Diversity Programs and the Advising and Retention Center are coordinating Step Up.

The program is divided into three components – retention, social engagement and alumni engagement, C.J. Woods said.

Other topics that will be discussed are organization skills, memory techniques, dressing for job interviews and what to expect in the workforce, said Tracey Williams, assistant director of diversity programs and a Step Up coordinator.

“I’m hoping that it will get them back on the right foot as far as being motivated and getting on the right path,” she said.

About 30 people have signed up for the program, Ingrid Woods said.

Step Up participants will meet individually with peer advisers every other week. The advisers will check the progress of participants and help them with any issues they are facing in the classroom. Meetings will begin next week, Ingrid Woods said.

Kacee Haskins, a junior from Dover, Del., is one of three peer advisers in Step Up. Program participants may feel more comfortable getting advice from their peers, she said.

“You can relate to a student sometimes more than you can relate to a teacher,” Haskins said.

Group sessions will take place every other Wednesday. Representatives from student services across Western will meet with the group to discuss resources to help students.

“We hope that by kind of introducing them to different areas of the university, it will allow them to feel more comfortable getting assistance from the university,” Ingrid Woods said.

Western alumni will also be invited back as guest speakers for Step Up, she said.

Owensboro freshman Johnathan Webb said he already anticipates that some of his peers may want to join Step Up when they prepare to graduate in a few years.

Webb said the program would also help students who don’t have much support from their families.

“That would really help them have someone in their corner to help them get through,” he said.

Reach Ashlee Clark at [email protected].