Supporting College Students
During my time at Ivy Tech, I have had the privilege of working with a diverse group of students. Some of the students are single parents; others are married, while others are grandparents raising grandchildren. Some students have no children. Most are working either part-time or full-time while they attend Ivy Tech. My students are male and female, representing many different certificate and degree programs. I’ve seen students struggle with the loss of a child; divorce; domestic violence; addiction; cancer and homelessness all the while typing papers and studying for tests. Their stories of resilience are both heartbreaking and inspiring.
The high school dropout crisis is alarming, and I am grateful to be in a position to facilitate hope and support so that students remain in school. At Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, we offer students an opportunity to join a group of peers on campus who are motivated to graduate and earn their degree. We find that fostering strong peer relationships, providing a space on campus to gather and study, and program staff who offer intensive advising, tutoring and mentoring are some critical components of student success. Another critical component is free financial support.
Two financial support programs offered by Ivy Tech include the Bowen Scholars program and the Nina Scholars program. The Bowen Scholars program is one of several opportunities available for students at Ivy Tech. Funded by the Bowen Family Foundation, the Bowen Scholars are African American students who have earned at least 6 college credits. This scholarship is particularly ideal for students who are dually enrolled and are participating in our College Readiness Centers as a high school student. They can begin in the fall after high school graduation.
The Nina Scholars program is available to non-traditional students, who meet one of the following requirements: have a physical disability; age 25 or older with dependents; ages 18-25 former foster youth. This opportunity was initiated in 2001 and is funded by the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Since 2001, over 144 Ivy Tech students have participated.
The beauty of our programs has truly been the peer support the students provide for each other. When Bowen Scholar, Alycia was diagnosed with breast cancer, students sent cards, brought food, called her and gave her a wig to wear when she lost her hair during chemotherapy. When a second student was diagnosed with cancer, Alycia was the first to reach out to offer support. She reached out again when one of our alums had to have her leg amputated. Alycia graduated with her degree in December 2014. She works full-time at a developmental preschool.
Maria had to sit out a semester because of a medical condition. She kept in touch with her fellow Nina Scholars via Facebook. She made sure to reach out to another Nina Scholar routinely when the other scholar took time off to recover from a trauma and addictions. Maria graduated with her LPN in December 2014. She works full-time and will earn her RN in May 2016. The other student is on track to graduate in May 2016.
Casey is a Nina Scholar who transferred from Ivy Tech to Ivy League. He is in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania. Despite the distance, Casey remains in touch, frequently emailing about potential internships, scholarships and opportunities for his fellow Nina Scholars. During one monthly meeting, he Skyped in to encourage students to not only remain in school, but to dream about transferring to the school of their dreams. He was honest, too. He talked about the heartache of moving to Philly only to discover that the landlord had grossly misrepresented the home he and his wife and four children would be renting. He explained the hasty search for suitable housing and the doubt that entered in. He talked about the academic challenges and being far from home. All in all, he says that the risks have paid off and he is grateful for the foundation and support of the Nina Scholars program. Casey transferred in August 2013. He will graduate from UPENN in May 2016.
Alisha and Alisa had babies within one month of each other in the spring 2012. Both continued attending classes while they cared for their newborns and their other children. Alisha graduated in December 2012 and is working on her bachelor’s degree at University of Indianapolis. Alisa graduated in May 2013 and completed her bachelor’s degree from IUPUI in May 2015.
James said he was ready to quit Ivy Tech. He was overwhelmed. But, then he heard Carl in the scholar computer lab one day talking about juggling full-time work with his family who lived out of town and working on his challenging coursework. James decided, “If Carl can do all that, surely I can get this done.” James and Carl both graduated in May 2013.
Cheri Bush is Director of the Bowen Scholars and Nina Scholars at Ivy Tech Community College of Central Indiana. She earned her M.S. in Child Development and Family Studies from Purdue University. She earned a B.A. in Psychology from Butler University. She and her husband have one daughter and two sons.