Simulation Program Helps Identify At Risk Students

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DES MOINES, Iowa –First generation, minority and low-income students are all at risk for having problems the first year of college. A new training program at one metro college can help freshmen students find success.

Faculty and staff at Mercy College of Health Sciences are now going through an online training program called At-Risk Gatekeeper Training. It’s a role-playing simulation program.

Freshman Success Coordinator Gayle Walter says, “It just helps to go through a series of different simulations where the faculty and staff, who are the gatekeepers, they have the most direct contact with these students and can recognize, maybe, if a student is going through some emotional stress that’s interfering with their academics.”

Funding from The Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation paid for the program. It’s the second year the school got a grant from the group. Last year the money offered the Steps to Success program, which helped first year students pay for textbooks and tutoring.

Shalea Fleming benefited from the Steps to Success. She’s a full-time student, with a full time job and mom to five kids. She says, "Two are in college, one has a new baby, two are in high school. And, it's a lot to juggle, but I love it."

She is currently a health tech at Broadlawns Medical Center, but is attending Mercy College of Health Sciences to become a nurse. Her mom graduated high school, but her dad didn’t. She says college has always been an important goal. She says, “I wanted to show my kids that yes, you can do whatever you want, no matter what you have on your plate, you can finish whatever you put your heart.”

Fleming should graduate next August. She would like to become a pediatric nurse. She says the extra support helps first-year students under great stress succeed.

Walter says that’s the hope. “We’ll be able to recognize those students that may be at risk more so with some emotional related issues and address those early on in the semester before they escalate into something more.”