AIMing High – How WCC Supports Students Post-Pandemic

In an effort to provide personalized support and guidance to students facing unique challenges, Whatcom Community College has developed the AIM program. AIM, an acronym for Achieve, Imagine, Motivate, represents the core principles of this transformative initiative. By offering coaching and mentoring services, AIM aims to empower first-generation college students, students of color, and those with financial need to overcome obstacles and succeed academically and personally.

Yusuke Okazaki, the Associate Director at the Intercultural Center, highlighted the significance of AIM in fostering connections, facilitating personal growth, and building a strong community on campus.

At the heart of AIM lies the commitment to help students develop the necessary skills and resources to thrive in their academic journey. Unlike traditional academic advising, AIM takes a holistic approach, focusing not only on mapping out coursework but also on personalized coaching and mentoring.

“We use a Wellness Wheel approach, which is a holistic approach to guiding students, addressing health, wellness, financial health, degree exploration, career exploration, and more,” said Veronica Perez, AIM Coach and manager. By understanding the unique needs and backgrounds of each student, AIM coaches are able to provide tailored guidance and support.

One of the primary target populations of AIM is first-generation college students, who frequently do not have family members or friends who can help them negotiate the transition to higher education.

“First-generation students historically haven’t had the resources, role models, or mentors to help them navigate college,” explained Okazaki. “AIM aims to bridge that gap by providing personalized coaching and mentoring to help these students not only survive but thrive in their college experience.”

The AIM program recognizes that the journey to academic success is not just about completing courses but also about personal growth and development. AIM coaches are trained to address the unique challenges faced by students of color, creating a supportive environment where they can thrive.

“Students of color often experience additional barriers and micro-aggressions on campus,” noted Okazaki. “AIM provides a safe and inclusive space where these students can find support, guidance, and a community of peers who understand their experiences.”

Through AIM, students of color gain access to mentors who share their cultural background or have experiences relevant to their journey. This connection enables students to navigate the complexities of higher education while staying true to their identity and heritage.

Okazaki also note=d, “We believe that a strong community is vital to student success. AIM hosts regular networking events, study groups, and cultural celebrations to create a sense of belonging. Through these activities, students can form friendships, support one another, and share their triumphs and challenges.”

Financial need is another crucial aspect addressed by AIM. Many students struggle to afford the rising costs of tuition, textbooks, and other educational expenses. AIM recognizes the financial challenges these students face and works closely with them to explore scholarship opportunities, financial aid options, and budgeting strategies.

“We understand that financial stress can impact a student’s ability to focus on their studies. AIM coaches are trained to assist students in finding the financial support they need to alleviate some of that burden. We want our students to have the peace of mind necessary to excel academically,” stated Okazaki.

When discussing personalized coaching, AIM representatives emphasized the importance of building strong relationships with students. They seek to understand each student’s individual goals, aspirations, and motivations for their education. By getting to know the students on a personal level, AIM can provide targeted guidance and support, empowering students to navigate their educational paths with confidence.

Collaboration also emerged as a key aspect of AIM’s approach. They work closely with academic advisors, instructors, and financial aid personnel to establish a strong support network for students. By forging these partnerships, AIM ensures a comprehensive approach to student support, addressing not only academic needs but also various aspects of students’ lives. This collaborative effort ensures that students receive guidance and resources that are necessary for success.

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