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Shepherd Success Academy receives $78K Benedum Foundation grant

ISSUED: 21 January 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University will be able to expand the Shepherd Success Academy (SSA), doubling the number of students the program assists, thanks to a $78,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix, president of Shepherd University, expressed appreciation to the Benedum Foundation “for their strategic investment in the Shepherd Success Academy, which will provide a transformational model for facilitating student success.”

This is the third year SSA has provided additional support and services to 36 students who have been identified as those who may struggle during their first semester in college.

“The SSA works with students who might not have been admitted to Shepherd or who have predictors that they might not be successful on their own, but they are valued and there’s a belief that they will be successful with additional help,” said Holly Morgan Frye, interim vice president for student affairs. “It’s so rewarding to see these students succeed.”

Students in the program have weekly meetings with a coach who works with them throughout the first semester by creating a personalized plan to help them maintain good grades and positive relationships on campus. The program also connects students to key campus resources. Hannah Williams-McNamee, student success coach, said the criteria for admittance includes, but is not limited to, standardized test scores, high school GPA, along with intended major.

“We try to get as full of a picture of a student as we can,” Williams-McNamee said. “We look at the academic aspects first. We have conversations with admissions about particular students and whether they would benefit from this program, and we take referrals as well.”

The Benedum Foundation grant will allow SSA to hire a second success coach, a second graduate assistant, add peer mentors to the program, and accept additional students.

“This is a dream come true for me,” said Julia Franks, director of student success. “This is a program that I’ve wanted to see developed since I was a graduate student here at Shepherd, and to watch it flourish and grow has been amazing.”

Franks said the grant will allow SSA to hire five peer mentors—students who have gone through the academy and who will receive a stipend. They will help plan cultural programs and meet with and serve as a resource for up to 15 academy students.

“I think overall the support of the mentors will not only increase the incoming SSA students’ participation and engagement within this program, but it will give some more self-authorship to the students who have previously gone through SSA,” said Maya Gonzalez, graduate assistant for student success. “They will make an impact at Shepherd by interacting with new, incoming students and by passing down any knowledge that they’ve gained during their time here and providing a more personal level of coaching since they’re closer in age.”

The grant will allow the academy to accept up to 75 students, doubling the number who can participate.

“I am excited to see what the reach of this program will be,” Gonzalez said. “Growing from 35 to 75 students I think will really create an impact on campus. It’s exciting to receive this and see that there’s somebody else who believes in what we can do and believes in Shepherd and Shepherd students.”

Frye said the Shepherd Success Academy is a unique program that helps a defined group of students succeed. SSA coaches work closely with other departments on campus, such as the TRiO Student Support Services program, faculty, staff, and others to ensure that all students who need support are connected.

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