By MEGAN PALBICKI
Promise. Possibilities. Success. Mount Mary College initiated new changes to last year’s Promise Program with the assistance of a new grant awarded by Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, a community investment program, as a one-year endowment.
The funds allow Promise Scholars more intensive opportunities to boost their possibilities at success, not just in an academic setting but in life by teaching the scholars business skills that will help them adapt easier to the rigors of the fast-paced and demanding business world.
“Twenty-one percent of students leave [college] due to hardship,” said Dr. Wendy McCredie, associate dean of academic affairs.
As a result, Mount Mary applied and was awarded a federal TRIO grant that launched the Promise Program two years ago which helped underprivileged and overlooked students who might have otherwise dropped out of college. This grant only helped students academically. The eligible students included first generation college students, minorities and low-income families who have limited resources and tend to carry more responsibilities than the average college student.
After months of collaboration this past year from several different departments on campus, a new grant proposal was drafted for the Promise Plus Project, or “P3.” In early September, the award was granted to Mount Mary and the Promise Program staff scrambled to get the program up and running for their scholars.
The Great Lakes grant is privately funded for one year from Great Lakes Philanthropic Effort. This grant has enabled administrators of the program to use the funds more flexibly to enhance all the services each scholar requires whether it has to do with difficulty with academics, culture differences, troublesome friendships, demanding family responsibilities or higher expectations from instructors.
These additional funds give the Promise Program the ability to hire more staff, enhance the program’s curriculum and create more supportive services for the scholars. With the Promise Program and the new P3 endowment, students receive the assistance they need to excel using an improved combination of mentoring services, social and cultural skill building activities, career advising and personal finance help, which they are calling the “financial literacy program.”
“P3 is Promise Program on Red Bull,” said Nicole Gahagan, Promise Program director.
Nestled in the lower level of Haggerty Library, the Promise Program also provides emotional support. Each scholar is paired with an advisor to help her navigate through any testy waters and aid her in making major choices.
The financial literacy program piece enables students to practice their personal spending and budgeting skills, while learning how to save through a virtual savings account.
“A freshman’s financial literacy needs are going to be different than a senior’s,” Gahagan said.
Institute meetings are also a big feature of P3. They allow freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors to get together and discuss some of their personal and academic challenges, which create stronger support structures.
The peer mentoring is an important function of the program. Juniors and seniors are paired up with freshmen and sophomores to help guide and relate to the lowerclassmen based on their past experiences with balancing the hardships of college life, family life and Mount Mary expectations.
Professional mentors are paired up with juniors and seniors to address workplace habits and workplace etiquette, offering advice on how to handle sticky workplace situations.
According to Nicole Scher-Hubing, Promise Plus coordinator, the Promise Program and P3 create an easier transition from college to workforce.
The Promise Program and P3 also focus on social awareness and cultural identity by engaging in local Milwaukee events, including heritage tours that travel through historic Milwaukee, where students are able to see and learn about the founding of cultural neighborhoods.
Mara Youngbauer, Promise Program counselor, conducts freshman workshops for P3. The workshops focus on developing critical thinking skills, dealing with self-doubt and helping with emotional and mental health issues, as well as daily stressors.
“P3 is a great opportunity,” Youngbauer said. “It’s a way for them [the students] to get more support, to engage and to learn.”
After the 2012-2013 school year, a new proposal will have to be drafted and submitted to Great Lakes again in hopes of making P3 an enduring fixture at Mount Mary. The Promise Program staff hopes to make this first year a success.