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HCC’s Step UP Program Helps Students Succeed

step up student and coach

At the start of her journey at Howard Community College, Victoria Amos struggled to succeed. She always had a mentor growing up and, as an adult, longed for similar guidance.

“I needed to have a mentor in college to get that same confidence, give me an extra push, and encourage me to put in extra effort,” she explained.

When Victoria learned about the college’s Step UP program, she knew it would be a perfect fit.

The Step UP program pairs students with a faculty or staff coach who provides one-on-one support for managing the challenges of college and life. During weekly meetings, coaches provide encouragement, and guidance. There are no agendas or set goals; instead, students are encouraged to question, share, and explore ideas with a caring listener.

That’s just what Victoria found in her coach, Cindy Nicodemus, a completion specialist at Howard Community College. Since the two were paired, Victoria’s grades have improved and her overall confidence increased.

“I come to Cindy for support, guidance, and an extra positive cheerleader,” Victoria said. “It has been helpful. I’ve been more motivated to do my work, study, create to-do lists, and put school first.”

As Nicodemus sees it, teaching students time management, introducing them to campus resources, and helping to navigate through college are keys to helping students grow.

“I’ve seen students who have really blossomed through the program and transferred to four-year colleges,” she said. “It’s rewarding.”

Rick Leith, assistant professor of English, has coached eight students since he became a coach in 2008. Some students requested he remain their coach for several semesters. Others graduated and kept in touch, even after moving out of state.

“Once you establish a relationship, you become part of their lives,” he said. “It’s a rewarding experience because you see the boost in confidence and growth in a person. Some can’t look you in the eye during the first few meetings, and, in a few weeks, they can.”

This fall, Leith worked with a student on time-management.

“I have alarms on my phone,” he said. “I give him a call and tell him it’s time to study for two hours. I ask him what he’s working on.”

During their meetings, they speak about the students goals. Leith says he sees himself in his Step UP student, as he had time-management problems when he was in school. But he recognizes that each student is unique.

“Some are under parental pressure; some are thinking of the military,” Rick said. “It’s guiding them not only with what you know and what resources we have on campus, but encouraging and them and supporting whatever they need.”

If you are a student who wants to join the program, email You can also get more information and/or sign up on our Step Up page
Topics: Campus Life
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