Jermaine Lewis, left, of Largo hands out St. Petersburg College T-shirts to freshmen Mandi Karkheck, center, and Samantha Green, both of Seminole, during Welcome Back festivities Aug. 29 on the SPC Seminole campus.
SEMINOLE – Officials at St. Petersburg College are kicking off a new program this fall that they hope will result in a higher retention of students and an increased graduation rate.
Each of the college’s eight campuses are employing the use of staff members as “success coaches” to help targeted students in any manner necessary to help their academic success.
“We want to make failure not happen,” said Tonjua Williams, vice president for academic and student affairs at SPC. “We want to be the solution to student success.”
The effort came about due to the college’s lower than normal graduation rate for first time/full-time students of about 29 percent, Seminole campus Provost Jim Olliver said.
“When you have that number finish, it’s not acceptable,” said Olliver. “With certain groups, like African-American males, it’s even lower.”
Olliver explained that the program is among new methods the college is using to connect with students “to bring them in.”
“It’s a real good project,” said Williams. “Our values have changed as an institution to be more student success based.”
The college uses what it calls an early alert system that depends on instructors alerting one of about 200 success coaches about a particular issue a student may be experiencing.
It might involve a student who has suddenly stopped attending class or a student that is experiencing an academic issue, requiring tutoring or just additional attention. Or it could be something like a lack of career focus or even a transportation issue.
Out of nearly 7,000 students enrolled at the Seminole campus, about 660 have been targeted since the start of school three weeks ago.
“We want to adopt a working model on the fly and bring them back,” said Patrick McGough, a senior instructional specialist and adjunct professor at the Seminole campus. “We want to get to students before they fall into that area of dread and despair.”
At a Welcome Back celebration Aug. 29 on the Seminole campus, Nancy Kelley, associate provost for health education, was in charge of a large mural students were signing to pledge their commitment to finish their education.
A few feet away, members of the school’s Student Government Association were working hard to get students involved in various campus activities.
The school places a high priority on this avenue of college life because they believe it coincides with retention.
“We know the more you get involved in campus life, the more successful you’re going to be,” said Olliver.