Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, many low-income Black and Latinx students seeking an education were already forced to face unnecessary uphill battles. Once the pandemic took hold, the disproportionate economic and health inequalities of students impacted by the global emergency became even more evident.
A mission made possible
Thankfully, assistance from Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is making the way a bit easier for these students. In September 2020, the Foundation initiated a postsecondary persistence grant opportunity designed to improve persistence and completion rates as well as postsecondary employment rates for Black and Latinx students currently enrolled in associate degree or certificate programs in the 29-town Greater Hartford region.
Among the postsecondary persistence grants awarded was one for $50,000 to Goodwin University.
Grant support specifics
The funds will be directed into services that reflect Goodwin’s career-focused mission. The post-enrollment persistence and completions supports include:
- Academic engagement
- Counseling or coaching
- Financial guidance
- Job placement supports
- Micro-grants to help students cover unexpected financial emergencies and computer/internet access
- Social engagements
Propelling learners through the Goodwin ACTS program
Goodwin has used the grant funds for the Goodwin Attaining Connections to Success (ACTS) program, which addresses the unequal access to technology and the affordability of textbooks and learning tools, while enhancing mentoring and coaching approaches. Since receiving the Foundation grant, Goodwin ACTS has provided assistance to Black and Latinx students, particularly in remote learning environments. Goodwin ACTS has a three-pronged approach that encompasses:
- Computer equipment, laptops, and Wi-Fi hotspots
To address a need that varies by semester, 34 laptops (30 standard and four specialty Advanced Manufacturing computers) were purchased.
- Financial assistance
As of August 30, 2021, Goodwin ACTS has disbursed $5,450 in total to 20 students to cover textbooks, materials, and other emergency needs.
- Professional development opportunities for academic advisors and deans
In 2020, nine academic advisors as well as one of the assistant deans of students participated in a six-week Student Success Coaching program to ensure that appropriate methods of support were being provided to Goodwin students.
“Upon completion of the student success initiative, we ran a pilot program in which we offered academic coaching to students on academic warning or probation,” explained Michelle Strawder, Senior Grants Officer at Goodwin. “These students received intensive services to assist them in being successful throughout the summer 2021 semester. In addition to participating in a minimum of four, hour-long sessions, students were asked to check in with their advisor or coach every two weeks by phone, email, or text.”
The students were surveyed on their experiences and the University is using the data to enhance the services. Among those was Human Services student Angelika Matics, whose thoughts are shared below.
How has COVID-19 impacted your life?
After losing my job, I had to cope with instability and adapt to constantly changing environments. With two children and no other family in Connecticut, I had to be resilient and strong to endure the isolation of the lockdown. My daughter fell into a depression from the lack of contact with the outside world. As an honor student, I was affected by having to take classes online, but managed to keep my GPA above 3.9. I networked until I found a job at a before-and-after-school program at a Montessori magnet school, advocating for children and assisted families. The school noticed my work and offered me a teaching position. This is just a starting point of my career path. I foresee many good things coming, and I owe it all to my education at Goodwin.
What has earning your associate degree taught you about perseverance?
That patience, flexibility, discipline, and focus are the keys to success. I had to make many difficult choices that limited my social life, but it was all worth it. The rewarding feeling of finishing my degree with high honors has made up for all the challenges I endured.
What was your experience like with your professors?
I had many professors offer great feedback of my work; some even called me personally to expand on their opinions of my work.
What makes Goodwin University unique?
The people at Goodwin did not treat me as a number, but listened and made sure my needs were met, so I could continue with my studies.
How has Goodwin University supported your career goals?
In addition to the grant to further my education, they provided all the resources for me to continue my studies without difficulty. I was also part of the work/study program, which helped me financially.
How has graduating with your associate degree helped you develop professionally and personally?
I have been able to research in depth issues that I am passionate about, so now I can advocate with confidence and know exactly how I want to help in my chosen field. My work as a Montessori assistant teacher goes back to my researching the comorbidity of mental illness and substance abuse. What I learned has helped me identify my interest in preventive measures to avoid the onset mental illness and substance abuse and informed my decision to work with children. I strongly believe that all schools should provide before-and-after-school care for the working parent. This will help avoid the chronic stress due of financial instability, and reduce youth criminality, vandalism, and the problems related to latchkey kids. I do have a plan of creating my own program, but for now I have chosen to continue my professional career in an organic manner. COVID-19 has taught me about the fluidity of life.
The timing of the Foundation grant was critical to many students who were struggling and unsure of where to turn for help. Strawder adds, “The support from the Foundation came at a time when most students were experiencing added stressors of the pandemic. This grant allowed Goodwin to immediately address students’ challenges by meeting their basic needs so they could continue with their education.”
For more information, please contact Travis Samuels, Case Manager/EOP Specialist, Goodwin University Student Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-913-2268.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.