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Winona State Program Helps Underserved First-year Students

WINONA, Minn. — A Winona State University mentorship program aims to help traditionally underserved first-year students find success on campus.

The Success Coach program, now in its fourth year, pairs first-generation and racially diverse students with coaches to discuss topics relating to life or school. The majority of the coaches are professors.

Sixty-eight percent of the university’s racially diverse freshmen return for their sophomore year, and only 29 percent of those students graduate in four years, the Winona Daily News reported.

The purpose of the program is to assist those students and reverse those trends.

“I’m glad I got pulled into this,” said Gabby Rivera, a nursing major. She meets with her coach, child advocacy professor Mary Kirk, about once a month.

“Mary is super cool,” Rivera said. “She asks how my home life is going, how school is going. I ask her about how school works, things like paying for college and picking classes.”

The students the university considers “underserved” are 10 times more likely to drop out after their freshman year compared with white students.

Eighty-five percent of the students who participated in the program last year returned for their sophomore year, and 83 percent of the students ended their freshman year in good academic standing.

“We’re helping them feel integrated at a predominantly white campus,” said Dia Yang, who coordinates the program.

Currently, there are 48 students and 20 coaches enrolled in the program this semester, Yang said. Coaches can mentor as many as four students at a time.

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