Mentoring anchors 6 community college equity goals

'Some of our greatest assets are the lived experiences our students and employees color,' college president says

Equity holds a range of meanings at Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts—it’s about social justice but also financial fairness and community prosperity, President Christina Royal says.

Community demographics are changing—the populaiton of Holyoke is now 50% Latinx. At the same time, business leaders report having difficulty finding qualified workers, says Royal, who was recently awarded an AAC&U-Cengage Inclusion Scholarship.

“I also see equity as an economic and workforce imperative,” says Royal, who was the first in her family to attend college.”We need more resources invested in training .”

The ALANA Men in Motion student success initiative represents one of Holyoke Community College’s investments in training.

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ALANA provides academic support, mentoring, counseling and career planning guidance to African American, Latino, Asian and Native American men.

The students meet with mentors once a week and also join regular group meetings focused on networking and community building. They also participate in academic, cultural and career field trips and workshops

The college’s data shows a 75% retention rate for the program’s LatinX participants, compared to a 45% rate for Hispanic students not involved in ALANA.

The school’s Champions Mentorship Network is another program that connects student of color with alumni and others to foster academic success, develop career pathways and set life goals, Royal says.

These mentors prioritize encouraging and guiding students as they seek to transfer to four-year schools. “We want student to start here but we want continue to post-secondary completion and success,” Royal says.

Here are some of Holyoke’s other equity initiatives:

  • Building an equity-minded culture: A Lumina Foundation grant is funding an immersive program in which college faculty and staff are developing best strategies, including the use of dat, to build a culture of equity-minded practice on campus.
  • Supporting an LGBTQ+ task force: The college is working to promote trans-affirmation as well as develop equitable policies around bathrooms and other aspects of campus life.
  • Expanding mental health: The college plans to partner with a local provide to increase mental health support on campus.
  • Enhancing the curriculum: The college’s strategic plan calls for renewed focus on culturally-responsive pedagogy to ensure lessons plans, textbooks and other resources promote a variety of perspectives beyond white males.
  • Building an emergency fund: Donations have helped grow the college’s student emergency fund, allowing administrators to expand what defines an “emergency” during COVID. The fund helps students meet basic needs such as housing, food, transportation, child care, technology and internet access.

“Some of our greatest assets are the lived experiences our students and employees color, even when those experiences consist of painful memories,” Royal says. “In order to heal, we need to share stories and people need to be heard.”

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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