Mentors make Tenn. Promise work for WSCC students
Walters State, along with other Tennessee community colleges, has been successful in helping more students access two years of tuition-free attendance through the Tennessee Promise scholarship. The keys to that success are volunteer mentors who lend their experience and encouragement in helping connect young high school students with the scholarship program.
The Tennessee Promise has been transformative in many ways, including student retention and completion rates. A recent Tennessee Board of Regents study showed that 56 percent of the first Tennessee Promise students have graduated, transferred to a four-year institution or remained in school two years later. The study showed that only 39 percent of peers outside of Tennessee Promise have been as successful.
One reason for this improvement is the mentor, the Tennessee Promise’s not-so-secret weapon. These volunteers are individuals from the community who help four or five Tennessee Promise students navigate the college’s admissions and enrollment process. Mentors spend a few hours a year providing one-on-one assistance to students. Mentors also stay in touch by phone, email or text. Most mentors spend less than an hour a month fulfilling the requirements. While the commitment is small, the impact is large.
Mentors play an active role in eliminating barriers associated with post-secondary access and success. A common example is completing the free application for student aid (FAFSA). This is a barrier for many high school students. A mentor takes away some of the anxiety by making sure the student knows what information is required and whom to contact regarding questions.
Mentors are cheerleaders. They encourage students to reach their full potential. When a student thinks he or she can’t go to college, the mentor reassures the student that he or she can. Simply sharing a personal story about your own college experience with a student can give that student the motivation to reach for a lofty goal – graduation.
As a mentor, I can attest that few volunteer opportunities provide the rewards that come with being a Tennessee Promise mentor. Each moment a mentor spends with a student could be life-changing.
The number of students signing up for Tennessee Promise has increased the number of mentors needed in every county served by Walters State. In Claiborne County, several mentors are still needed.
Just as mentors stand behind students, Walters State and the Tennessee Promise team stand behind mentors. We provide the information needed to guide students. We encourage mentors to call us if they need answers.
I invite you to be part of this life-changing program. Help us make Tennessee Promise work for every student by becoming a mentor.
Dr. Tony Miksa is president of Walters State Community College. For more information or to become a mentor, visit www.tnachieves.org.