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“When Essex County College launched its Success Coaches program last year, its mission was simple: Focus on student retention,” said Executive Director for Enrollment Management, Sanjay Ramdath. He added that the College has 20 Success Coaches who work with students in specific academic areas.
Success Coach Yash Gajera said he is in constant contact with his students via phone and email. “I’m a graduate of ECC, so I can assist students from the perspective of my own experiences.”
Mr. Gajera said that prior to the start of the Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 semesters, he reached out to all students assigned to him. Motivation is one tool he frequently uses.
Fellow Success Coach Jonathan Ribeiro said, “Our assignment is to keep them on track for graduation and to provide them with all resources they may need to reach their goals.” Mr. Ribeiro. Last semester, for example, a former student who had been in the Balance Forgiveness Program, contacted him, saying she wasn’t sure about returning to college. “I told her she was so close to graduating, with only nine credits left for her degree. I was able to motivate her and she completed her requirements in December.”
“In addition to maintaining contact with students, I provide them with available resources,” said Mr. Gajera. “They email me whenever questions arise.”
The Success Coaches also provide to students information on a number of wrap-around services the College offers. These include the Food Pantry, which addresses student food insecurity, the Wellness Center, and the College’s Vision Care program offering discounted eyeglasses. Students are also kept aware of Financial Aid information and services offered through the Educational Opportunity Fund.
The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in many new challenges, as the College has switched to remote instruction only. Both Success Coaches said they talked to their students how to prepare for remote instruction weeks before the College had to make the switch. They talked to a number of students who, at first, were uncomfortable taking classes remotely.
“Some students were concerned early on,” said Mr. Ribeiro. “They were not used to doing all their work online. “I’ve demonstrated to students how to download Zoom. We are trying to make the transition as easy as possible,” he added.
Mr. Gajera has also been helping students with remote instruction. Recently, he heard a student was enrolled in a class, but her professor was unable to locate her. It turned out that she wasn’t able to go online for the class. After Mr. Gajera tracked her down, he was able to provide her with the assistance to resume her classes. “It’s tough as some students have difficulty at this time,”Mr. Gajera said. “But we are working through it.”
While Mr. Gajera remains in electronic contact with students, he is also ensuring that they are registering for Summer I. That’s just another way Success Coaches improve student retention and keep them on track to become Essex County College graduates.