Just over three years ago a young woman moved onto the UW-River Falls campus. She is a Apple Valley High School graduate who considered herself very prepared for college, and a new scholar in the Student Support Services (SSS) program at UWRF.
With 17 college credits under her belt, she enrolled into business classes because that was what she wanted to do and “no one could tell me different,” said UWRF junior Ashlee Richmond-Wilks.
Over the course of three years, a lot changed for Richmond-Wilks, including her major, which she switched to marketing communications as a result of the support she found at SSS through her personal coach Linda Jordan.
After struggling with business classes, which resulted in her thinking about leaving UWRF, she met with Jordan who had seen her effort.
“You know, I just told my parents I’m fine, I’m fine, whatever, but Linda could see it. You’re struggling,” Richmond-Wilks said.
Richmond-Wilks met with Jordan every week to discuss how she was doing and those meetings encouraged her to get her grades up, Richmond-Wilks said.
This is just one of the roughly 200 stories of SSS scholars at UWRF. The program is designed to help low income and first generation college students succeed by connecting students with tutors, helping students create positive relationships with their peers through the activities they host, teaching professional development and providing personal coaches, like Jordan, that scholars keep the entire time they are at UWRF, among other things.
The program holds a focus on, “assisting our students with not just academic stuff, but lots of social stuff, lots of financial things, any kind of confusions that they have,” said Interim Assistant Director for Student Support Services Gina Sevick.
“They’re really into helping you become as successful as possible,” Richmond-Wilks said.
There is also a social component to the program that connects peers through activities like trips to museums or activities like snow tubing, Richmond-Wilks said.
The only bad thing is that “Sometimes there’s so many events that you cannot make them all,” Richmond-Wilks said, who tries to fit as many in her schedule as she can.
There are many students on the UWRF campus who are eligible to be a part of this program that is currently recruiting, said Tutoring Services Manager Linnea Ramberg, who connects the majority of SSS scholars with tutoring services.
Since the program is funded by a grant, the program is allowed to provide services to roughly 200 students each year, give or take a few depending on the number of interested applicants.
“We wish we could serve all the students on campus,” Sevick said, because she said that she thinks the program is valuable and a great resource to students.
For Richmond-Wilks, SSS provided her with academic support when she needed it, but has also started offering her assistance as she prepares for life after graduation.
Jordan has helped her prepare resumes and business cards for career opportunities and helped her write letters to businesses she is interested in.
Richmond-Wilks is currently working two jobs on campus, which she balances with a full course load. This is something she never expected to do, but with the support of SSS, she is.
“Just because you come from nothing or don’t have a lot, doesn’t mean you can’t work toward a lot,” said Richmond-Wilks.