Open Space program AIMS to help students

By Katauna Loeuy

The AIM Open Space program at Whatcom Community College provides a drop-in facility for students to connect with one-on-one mentoring or assistance for any aspect of the college experience, including academic help and personal well-being.
Sara Purington, one of three AIM coaches and a Title III Student Completion Specialist, says that AIM, which stands for Achieve Imagine Motivate, is “a space for students to connect with other students.”
The program is organized by three student mentors who offer aid in time management, scheduling, organization, and more to students. This space allows Whatcom students access to a variety of resources to help them succeed.
AIM Open Space was created when staff members began to see a need to support students who “felt lost,” Purington said, and reaching out to “marginalized students who need connections and help” was a crucial step.
This is the first year for Open Space, and the second year of peer mentoring.
“AIM is funded through a Title III grant,” Purington said, which “gives colleges an opportunity to address a need.” The target demographic includes students with limited income, students with disabilities, students of color, and/or first students in a family to graduate with a degree.
Rebekah Dowd, an AIM Open Space peer mentor, says the space is designed “to help people identify the obstacles in their life—map out a schedule or a budget—little things that can help them succeed.”
“I built a little self-checklist based on the wellness wheel, to ask questions for each area to find out what the students are neglecting,” Dowd said. “I found that many students struggled with money, and I realized that many of these students had never made a budget before.”
Peer mentor Candida Delgadillo describes the new program as “a space for you to talk about your goals, your school and the career path that you want to take. It’s a space for students to come talk to other students about how school is going.”
“The most important part of AIM is the one-on-one interactions and having a presence on campus,” she said.
The AIM program is a recent addition to Whatcom’s campus, however the Open Space program is separate, and offers a drop-in center that is open at least three hours on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
“All a student needs to do to get connected with AIM [Open Space], is schedule a meeting with a coach, and they’re automatically in the program,” Purington said.
This then opens an AIM section in Canvas that offers resources, updates on events and planned activities.
“In an average day we’ll probably see five to six students,” said Purington.
Although there are always people open to talking in this space, sometimes the mentors host activities, such as creating vision boards to help manifest hopes and dreams for the future.
The Open Space portion of AIM is student run because, “sometimes it’s easier to connect with a fellow student than a staff member,” Purington said.
While the AIM program is limited to a specific demographic because of its grant funding, the AIM Open Space drop-in center is open to all students.

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