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November 2018 Issue

From the Executive Director:
Top Ten Things I Learned Over Two Crazy, Crazy Months of Travel


UNO Student Success Academy


Prairie Loft Center


Urban League of Nebraska

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UNO’s Success Academy Invests in Often Overlooked Student Population

Raising the Bar | Youth Pathways to Success | November 2018

In March of 2017, the foundation awarded the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) a three-year $232,500 grant to provide support for the Success Academy.

The Success Academy is a newly-formed learning community on UNO’s campus that aims to support first year students who may need additional academic and community supports and services as they transition to the University. The program provides academic and social support, helps build campus connections and provides a foundation for future success.

Of the 201 students the Success Academy served in 2017, 45 percent were first generation students and nearly half (48 percent) were from low-income backgrounds. “It’s difficult to pinpoint a consistent reason why students are in our program,” says Aaron Krueger, UNO’s Director of Success Academies. “Some are first generation college students, and some were simply not engaged or motivated in their high school academic process. It varies with each student.”

Currently, the Success Academy has nine peer mentors that support 254 students. The key services the Success Academy provides are: one-on-one academic coaching, peer mentoring and guaranteed access to courses focused on critical thinking skills valuable to new college students. These services are intended to foster the development of foundational college-level skills that will put Success Academy students on—and keep them on—track for graduation.

In the past, this group of students had no dedicated support on UNO’s campus. If they had questions outside of general university services, there was no place for them to turn. Krueger says.

“Since this grant has been secured, we’ve been able to hire staff specific to the Success Academy mission and create an actual place on campus. Students can come here, they can study, use our computers. It’s a positive culture and it has opened up a lot of doors for students that they wouldn’t have had.”

In addition to the academic support it provides, the Success Academy acknowledges that the first year of college is loaded with transitions—more independence, less structure, new friends, navigating a new campus, figuring out computer systems. Success Academy’s peer mentoring and cohort approach aims to buffer the shock by providing opportunities to check in with others who are going through, or have gone through, similar experiences.

Kylie Black, a UNO Success Academy student, says she was terrified prior to her first year of college. “My biggest fears were getting lost on campus, not being able to find parking, being alone and not making friends, and failing my classes.” Through Success Academy events, peer mentoring, and regular use of the Success Academy study space Black is thriving in her first year. “The amount of support is truly amazing,” Black says, “Everyone that is there, is there because they want to help us, and they want us to grow and be successful.”

As a relatively young program, the Success Academy is building programming and working on the best formula to improve retention and persistence for these students to ensure they succeed. They’ve identified one barrier to student success as a gap in financial literacy and planning. To that end, they have partnered with the offices of Admissions and Financial Support & Scholarships to help address this.

Krueger says, “things will continue to change, and my hope is with each year and each group of students, we’ll make minor tweaks and keep doing what we’re doing.”