The future of underserved, low-income and first-generation college students is hopeful, thanks to college mentoring programs like College Possible’s Catalyze, which helps augment existing on-campus college success programming. For the past two years, Catalyze coaches have been instrumental in guiding eligible Vaughn College students to graduation day by empowering them to achieve their goals.

We spoke with Lauren Cajade, assistant director, Higher Education Opportunity Program, at Vaughn for her insights on the success of the College’s partnership with Catalyze, and the excitement surrounding the hiring of three new near-peer coaches—one of whom is a recent Vaughn graduate—to kick off the 2021-2022 school year.

Vaughn’s Catalyze partnership

Entering its third year, Vaughn’s partnership with the Catalyze program has continued to offer eligible first year students the opportunity to work with near-peer coaches. Coaches receive comprehensive training and curriculum support from Catalyze to guide them in providing pro-active, high-touch student interventions that help students overcome some of the most common barriers to persistence and graduation. “Working with our coaches gives our students an extra set of hands to get through college,” said Cajade. She explained how students receive support from both academic and student affairs, which provides a well-rounded experience to give students a sense of community on campus. “From getting help with registration and scheduling, to learning about financial aid and filling out the FAFSA, our coaches guide students every step of the way—right up until graduation day.”

Who is eligible? 

Vaughn will reach out to eligible students who qualify for the program. Eligible students are not required to participate; however, those who do will be assigned to a near-peer coach. Students must meet the following specific criteria to qualify for the Catalyze program:

  • Low-income
  • Pell Grant-eligible
  • First-generation college student

How Catalyze coaches support eligible Vaughn students

Near-peer coaches are often recent graduates who may have similar backgrounds as the ones they support. Each coach has committed to a year of service as an AmeriCorps member and receives a living stipend as well as a modest education award for their service. A key factor in becoming a coach is they must demonstrate a passion for helping the next generation of graduates. Cajade explained how they undergo in-depth training, learning about the rules and regulations of College Possible, and Title IX training for Vaughn. “In addition to their regular training, we believe it’s important for our coaches to become familiar with the names of our department heads and the roles they serve,” said Cajade. “This is an important part of how the mentors can effectively direct our students to the proper person when they need help.”

Here are some ways near-peer coaches support their students:

  • Connecting to existing campus and community resources
  • Social-emotional skill development
  • Course registration
  • Finding scholarships and completing financial aid applications

Coaches use the program’s proven, evidence-based model and proprietary curriculum to guide students through their college experience. Here are the core areas they focus on:

  • Academic success
  • Personal development
  • Financial management

How College Possible makes it possible for students to succeed

College Possible is a national leader in college access and success programming that is dedicated to coaching students from low-income backgrounds to-and-through college. For more than 20 years, the nonprofit organization has refined their near-peer coaching model to achieve the best outcome for its students. Beginning junior year of high school and continuing right up until college graduation, near-peer coaches advise and mentor eligible students with the goal of helping them reach their fullest potential. This rigorously tested model has helped make College Possible students three times more likely to complete a four-year college degree and 98 percent of students in the program are admitted to college.

With the new semester approaching, Cajade expressed her excitement over the hiring of the three newest coaches: Jared Martino, Jessica Levine and recent Vaughn graduate, Jenelle Samuel ’21. Each coach will support approximately 140 students within their service year. “The past year has been difficult for everyone, but especially our students,” Cajade said. “We are excited to welcome our new near-peer coaches to the Vaughn family. Catalyze is a wonderful program, and College Possible a great partner. I’m proud to be a part of an institution that pulls out all the stops to give students all the tools they need to succeed.”

Want to learn more? Check out our blog article which explains how opportunity programs, like HEOP, can help you achieve success in college and graduate with a futureproof career.

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