In what West Kentucky Community and Technical College President Anton Reece described as a historic day for the campus, the college held a grand opening ceremony for its new Student Success Center on Wednesday.
The Student Success Center aims to provide students from all walks of life with the resources they need to pursue a college education and succeed in the classroom.
The center was part of a seven-sector framework developed by the WKCTC and called the WKCTC Guarantee. This framework outlines the WKCTC’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and outlines how philanthropist Mackenzie Scott’s $15 million gift in 2020 would be used to help underserved groups and populations.
“At the end of the day, we can do all the aspects of the other sectors. But if the students ultimately fail to be retained and graduate on time, the speed of work [to] high salaries, high-demand jobs and/or transfer to big institutions, then in many ways it just becomes symbolic,” Reece said.
Operating in a pilot phase during the 2021-2022 school year, the Student Success Center has officially opened this semester to WKCTC students. The open-plan space has several round tables and computers that students can use as study space, and also serves as a space where students can meet support staff, peer tutors, and success coaches to help students continue their academic journey.
The Student Success Center, which Paducah Junior College Board Chairman Chris Black has described as the “backbone” of the WKCTC Guarantee, has three focus areas: freshman experience, for helping new students transition into the university atmosphere; tutoring, where tutors help students better understand their lessons; and success coaching, where students are connected to resources to meet a need outside of the classroom, such as housing resources and computer and internet resources, and help them further their education.
Tyra Frick, director of the WKCTC’s Student Success Center, said there are students who are able to take college courses but have factors outside of the classroom that impact their education and can eventually cause them to give up if they cannot find support.
“What we’ve learned from interacting with students here, through research, is that students have the ability to graduate, but they don’t. And it’s because of the complexities of life that get in the way,” Frick said.
“Everything from tuition, transportation, housing, food security, and we know that if we can help remove these barriers, they will persist and eventually graduate.”
Reece said that at many colleges and universities, faculty and administration practice a “sink or swim” approach where students are expected to succeed on their own and schools expect a large portion of students fail. Reece challenged that idea, saying schools should take into account issues that students, especially non-traditional students, students from rural areas, and students from diverse backgrounds, face that may be preventing them from achieving their highest. great potential in the classroom.
Tyler Suits, who used the Student Success Center during his pilot year as a WKCTC student and is now a peer tutor in the center and a student at the University of Kentucky Paducah College of Engineering, explained how the center helped him succeed. Suits said his first attempt at college didn’t work and after undergoing surgery for a herniated disc in his back, he struggled with substance use disorders for a decade. After beginning the recovery process, Suits’ mother, his biggest supporter, died of COVID-19 and his grandmother had to move into a nursing home.
Suits started classes at the WKCTC and would sit outside the building housing the Success Center on weekends to finish his classes because he had no internet at home. Staff members noticed and referred Suits to the Student Success Center last spring, where he said he was quickly connected with tutors to help him better understand his math classes, success coaches, and a support network.
“The Student Success Center had people who listened to my struggles when I needed someone to talk to and offered small acts of kindness,” Suits said.