Finances add another difficulty.
For public school students in Bradley County both challenges can be overcome through the “bradleyAchieves” program at Cleveland State Community College.
The fall 2012 incoming freshmen who qualify are the first to participate in this local version of tnAchieves.
Incoming freshman Jen O’Neal said the program was a deciding factor in where she started her college experience.
“I just couldn’t pass up two free years of college,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal, a Cleveland High School graduate, said she decided to apply after hearing about the program from her mom and at school.
BradleyAchieves is a last dollar scholarship, meaning it covers the cost of tuition beyond what financial aid covers. Applications for the program were accepted last October.
The program is only open to graduates of Bradley Central High School, Cleveland High School and Walker Valley High School.
Participants are required to attend bradleyAchieves meetings, maintain a 2.0 GPA and complete eight hours of community service each semester.
O’Neal said community service completed in the summer could count also.
O’Neal’s mentor, admissions coordinator Kim Wills, was not planning to be a part of the program until the first meeting.
Wills said she had attended the meeting to make some announcements as an admissions coordinator. However, when she saw O’Neal and her friend didn’t have a mentor she decided to step up and fill the role.
“They’re weren’t enough (mentors) to go around the first meeting,” O’Neal said.
Wills knew O’Neal’s parents and wanted her to have a good experience in the program so she became her mentor. Wills also serves as mentor for two other students in the program.
Wills said the main component of being a mentor was to attend meetings and remind students of upcoming deadlines.
“It wasn’t very hard considering the impact it is going to have on these kids because they get to go to college and not have student loans, which for me I’m big on paying as you go,” Wills said.
She said other mentors may have spent more time with their students depending on the students’ needs and time restraints.
Wills said the benefit for the college staff mentoring in the program is that students will know someone on their first day of class. A benefit to having mentors in the community is “that network and exposure to other jobs.”
Texting and email were used extensively to stay up to date, Wills said.
BradleyAchieves meetings were held throughout last school year to prepare the participating high school seniors to meet all the deadlines.
Deadlines for bradley-Achieves students were earlier for registration and financial aid information than for other students.
The first meeting was mostly about orientation into the program, deadlines and filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. At the last meeting, students signed up for classes.
Wills said she hopes the program will grow as more students take advantage of this opportunity.
As more students apply, more mentors will be needed.
For more information about becoming a mentor in the bradleyAchieves program visit https://www.tnachieves.org/a-mentor.