Jae Campbell (far left) and Pam Wiggins (left) are success coaches at RCC under the First in the World grant program, a Department of Education program focused on helping students stay in school.
Coaching Success: One Student at a Time By Felicia Barlow We’ve all heard the old adage, don’t judge a book by its cover, but in reality, that’s easier said than done. Every day we pass people and we make assumptions about them based simply on the way they look. We’ve all done it, even if we don’t openly admit it. Now, put yourself in the shoes of some of Randolph Community College’s students. Single parents, full-time jobs, no food in the house, and no money for medicine. Oh, and that doesn’t even include all the expectations that come with being a college student. That is reality for our students, and that’s why we are taking intensive, proactive steps to help them succeed, even through all of life’s curveballs. RCC is one of 10 community colleges across North Carolina taking part in the Carolina Works Validation Study. It is part of the Department of Education’s grantbased First in the World program. Study leaders say it “aims to support, develop, test and replicate innovative solutions to address persistence and other challenges affecting student outcomes.” To put it in simpler terms, we’re learning more ways to help our students STAY in school once they start. Pam Wiggins and Jae Campbell are the faces many of these students see
Don’t ASSUME Anything.... every day. They are RCC’s “Success Coaches.” A big part of their job is to talk to these students one-on-one, to get to know them, to learn what they deal with inside and outside of school, and to help them in any way possible. This early intervention can be a true game changer for a student on the verge of dropping out. Pam sums up her job best when she enthusiastically tells her students to “consider me your personal navigator app!” She tells them that whenever they need something, come to her and she’ll find it. Pam has been an educator for years and has a wealth of resources to pull from. Not only has Pam taught in college classrooms, she has also taught people across North Carolina about substance abuse and mental health. She has been part of similar research projects in the past and says she is super excited to have the “opportunity to be part of the change…because this could be the tide turner for future colleges.” Pam says we can all learn something from her students. She says it’s important not to “assume they’re not invested…they just might not have the ability to ask for help.” Things you and I take for granted, like filling out a form or asking a question, are often beyond reach for some students. Pam reiterates, “Don’t assume anything.” Jae agrees and says many students are legitimately terrified to ask their instructor a question. She says they will often take a zero before they will open up a dialogue with someone
of authority. Jae says the one-onone interaction helps build their confidence and communication skills. Jae spent years teaching in the classroom and says she “loved the opportunity to sit down with students” because she could literally see their progress. She says that’s what drew her to this position and what she loves most about being a Success Coach. Her “…only job is to focus on these students” and help them navigate college. Jae says she gets to know her students as people first and that connection makes all the difference. She makes sure her students know they’re not in this alone. She will be there for support throughout the entire journey. Our students are balancing so much. Sometimes, it’s overwhelming and they just don’t know where to turn. Jae says she has “already been able to intervene to help students with situations that may have otherwise been the last straw.” So the next time you walk past someone, don’t assume you know their story. Most of us are fortunate enough to have beds to sleep in and plenty of food to eat. Pam and Jae have already learned that is definitely not the case for many of our students. That’s why this First in the World program is so important. We will be able to learn so much about our students and what they truly deal with on a daily basis. From that, we hope to make the needed changes to help them thrive as healthy, vibrant members of our community. EPIC NEWS | 39