Let's Build A Bridge

Tashona Jones, Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Office of Student Success / The Center / May 10, 2024

Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Staff Meeting

We are learning to build bridges at Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo. Our institution has long wanted to create a space for our first-generation students to not just survive in but thrive in! Our first-generation students have always received a warm welcome; however, since joining the First Scholars Network we realized that we needed to provide something that would be more meaningful to our students as they prepare to enter higher education. We realized the need to bridge the gap between high school and college for our students (and their families) and intentionally connect them to their supportive campus community.

As a result, two things have been cultivated. We created a First-Generation College Student Steering Committee, which will support first-generation student initiatives throughout Ivy Tech Kokomo. We are also in the midst of planning our very first summer bridge program for all new, incoming first-generation students. This program aims to promote a healthy transition from high school to college while acclimating our students to Ivy Tech by sharing resources that are available, introducing faculty and staff who will support them, as well as diving into strategies to help students leverage their skills and abilities for success in college.

In June 2024, we will launch our inaugural Ivy First Summer Bridge Program for participants across the three campuses in our service area. Every Friday for four weeks students will participate in workshops and activities with campus faculty, staff and each other as they transition to higher education.

Ivy First Summer Bridge Program will include several items that will orient them to campus life, but we will focus on four major themes: Relationship building, Navigation, Keeping It Altogether, and Moving Forward.

Relationship building at Ivy Tech is integral to first-generation student success and we will focus a full session with our students acclimating them to each other, introducing them to resources, and meeting other first-generation faculty and staff. Our first-generation students will gain a sense of belonging and be able to connect with people and departments on campus that will provide encouragement and guidance throughout the program and beyond.

In navigation, participants will learn about the many habits to practice becoming successful college students. They will hear from the departments such as, financial aid, advising and career development just to name a few. We want each student to feel confident and become comfortable making informed decisions concerning their education.

Our first-generation students will gain a sense of belonging and be able to connect with people and departments on campus that will provide encouragement and guidance throughout the program and beyond.

The transition from high school to college isn’t always easy, so we are going to share “real-life” hacks with our students to help them manage the highs and lows of their journey. We are going to kick it off by offering the Clifton Strengths assessment to each student as well as provide additional coaching to help them lean into their strengths. First-generation college students often struggle with imposter syndrome. By offering the strengths assessment, we hope to help foster each student’s personal and leadership development. Understanding how they can leverage their unique strengths will begin to manifest as they learn to balance keeping it altogether.

Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Staff
There are several Ivy Tech Kokomo faculty and staff that are first generation graduates, and we understand the significance of having supportive family and friends. The Ivy First Summer Bridge invite will extend to families so they can also learn more about the transition to college. During the navigation module, there will be a breakout session for families to ask questions and discover ways they can best support their loved ones.

Lastly, we want to ensure that participants are aware of opportunities available to equip them for the workforce. Our Career Development department takes on the responsibility of connecting with our students early in their academic careers to make them aware of the tools we offer that promote career exploration and career readiness.

Ivy Tech Kokomo is beyond excited to launch this new program as we support Ivy Tech College’s Strategic Plan by enhancing first-generation student support. Tashona Jones, Director of Student Success and Retention, who is also a first-generation graduate said, “It makes me proud to work for an institution that is providing a major steppingstone for first generation students to overcome obstacles, achieve their goals, and realize their full potential.” Ivy Tech Kokomo is excited for these opportunities that our new First-Generation College Student Steering Committee and Ivy First Summer Bridge Program will have to offer for our students. 

For more information on Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo's approach, please visit their website here.