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Completion coaches, tutors help Motlow students navigate pandemic-induced exhaustion

Completion Coach Angelica Dotson, left, advises Motlow State student Hannah Parker. Every Motlow student is assigned a completion coach upon enrollment. Students and coaches work together to develop proactive strategies to address academic concerns and life challenges. The one-on-one coaching sessions are designed to educate students about college-wide resources and develop plans to address their particular needs. (Photo Credit: Motlow State Staff)

LOCAL NEWS — Nothing’s been normal since 2020 and the majority of high school students entering colleges this fall suffered through disrupted senior year. According to a survey administered by Indiana University’s Center for Postsecondary Research, COVID-induced distance learning challenged students academically, technologically, and psychologically. The pandemic required some to take on new responsibilities at home while managing unfamiliar expectations to finish high school.

All Motlow campuses including it’s Moore County campus address that reality with Student Success Centers that offer services like private counseling, tutoring, math lab, a writing center, and disability services.

“We have increased our outreach efforts in order to better assist and inform students of the services that we provide in student success centers,” said Dr. Sidney McPhee, director of student success at Motlow.

In Motlow’s student success centers, students can meet with completion coaches. Every student at Motlow is assigned a completion coach when they enroll. The coach serves as the student’s guide to progression, motivation, planning, and ultimately graduation. Students and coaches work together to develop proactive strategies to address academic concerns and life challenges. Students can find out who their assigned completion coach is by checking their MyMotlow account, looking under GPS, then Advisor.

Surveys highlight student struggles

More than half (53 percent) of the respondents to the Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE) survey reported substantial (“very much” or “quite a bit”) increases in levels of depression, hopelessness, and loneliness due to COVID.

“As a 50-year-old college freshman, I could have easily given up on my dreams when Motlow’s instruction went virtual during the coronavirus pandemic. My instructors and PTK advisors provided me with academic and emotional support while encouraging me to stay the course as we shifted from on-ground to online learning without missing a beat,” said recent Motlow graduate Deitra Dunlap.

According to the 2021 Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE), a survey of eligible Motlow students administered by the College, approximately 75 percent of respondents felt Motlow provided the support needed to help students succeed. Additionally, most of the College’s students who responded were working at least 15 hours per week to pay for college. Several students spend on average 6-10 hours or more per week caring for dependents (parents, children, spouse, etc.).

One of the areas noted in the BCSSE as a cause for increased depression was lack of financial stability. The CCSSE reiterated that the lack of finances was the highest-rated issue that would cause students to withdraw from a class or college altogether.

Motlow is a lower-cost alternative to traditional four-year institutions. The College offers a variety of methods to help ease financial stress, including scholarships, classes utilizing open education resources (no textbook purchase required), a student pantry to address food insecurities, short-term training and fast-track industry certifications for those who can’t commit to two-year programs, device loan programs, and our most recent partnership to provide free, 5G phones with unlimited wi-fi hotspots.

Scholarships at Motlow are funded by the federal government, state government, Motlow College Foundation, and other external sources. The College makes it easy to apply. There is one general application to complete for almost all of the scholarships Motlow offers.

Reach out for help

Motlow encourages students to reach out and ask for help. Encourage others to reach out if you think they need help.

“There were a few days when I felt as if I had no outlet and no one to speak with who could understand what I was going through. All my other peers seemed to have it all together, and it seemed as though I was the only one who was falling apart,” explained Motlow student Shayna-Raye Funderburk.

Little did she know, she wasn’t the only one.

“I began communicating with my classmates more and discovered a lot of us were facing the same difficulties of trying to balance school and work. Luckily, the faculty at Motlow State has been more than helpful when it comes to making sure each student has felt not only welcomed but cared for,” she added. “I have also found getting involved in clubs, such as the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, has boosted my confidence and outgoingness exceedingly. More than that, I have met some truly amazing individuals through our school’s chapter who have changed my life for the better.”

The College offers free, confidential counseling services to enrolled students. Services are available in person and as virtual telehealth appointments. To schedule an appointment, call 931-393-1923 or email counseling@mscc.edu.•

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