#NACACreads: Change Needed to Better Serve At-Risk Students

Building trust and working to transform campus culture are two steps counselors can take to better support today’s students, according to author Karen Gross.

Gross—who served as president of Southern Vermont College for eight years—offered those suggestions Wednesday during a far-reaching #NACACreads Twitter discussion of her most recent release, Breakaway Learners: Strategies for Post-Secondary Success with At-Risk Students.

In her book, Gross makes the case that America’s youth are changing, but schools and colleges have been to slow to adapt to their needs. In particular, the road to and through higher education remains filled with barriers for low-income students, first-generation students, and students who have experienced trauma.

A personal connection with someone who cares can make a world of difference. And, just as importantly, campus culture needs to shift in recognition of the unique life experiences (both good and bad) that such students carry with them to college, Gross said during the hour-long Twitter chat.

Simplifying the admission and financial processes can help, as can making good on promises made to students during the recruitment process.

Building trust, Gross noted, is especially important when working with students who have experienced trauma.

For high schools and colleges to truly transform, all staff need to adopt an attitude of reciprocity and allow each student the opportunity to engage with a supportive adult who believes in them.

“One person can help, but the institution needs to be committed,” Gross tweeted.

Learn more about the book and read a full transcript of the #NACACreads chat.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org. 

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