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Next Step Program aims to enhance students' transition from foster care to college success

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  MTSU implemented the Next Step Program nearly twoo years ago.

Although there are a number of valuable resources available for at-risk and in-need college students, they key to securing such assistance is often simply learning about such aid.

In turn, I recently learned about a program at MTSU that is aimed at helping disadvantaged and underserved students; namely, the Next Step Program, which was initiated two years ago by the Murfreesboro-based university's Academic Support Center, known as ASC.

Specifically, Next Step initially was designed to help ease the transition to college for those students coming out of the foster-care system to MTSU. And to learn more about the program, I recently consulted Becca Seul, M.S., a Certified Family Life Educator, program coordinator for MTSU’s Next Step Program and an ASC adviser.

The following was penned by Seul about the Next Step endeavor, and those who know someone who may benefit from the program, or better yet, current or potential MTSU students who think they may qualify for the program are urged to contact Seul in MTSU's ASC at the contact number provided below.

A message from MTSU's Seul about the Next Step Program

As academic advisers, we knew there were many unique challenges that these students often face, from obtaining financial aid to needing year-round housing, and everything in between. We trained staff members across campus in numerous offices to help with this transition. Collectively, liaisons in Admissions, Financial Aid, Housing, Academic Advising and Student Support Services work together to help this population of students not only get to MTSU, but to succeed here, too.


 Becca Seul, M.S., oversees MTSU's Next Step
 Program designed to aid students who are
 transitioning from foster care to college life.

Since its inception, the program has evolved into something bigger, something that serves the needs of these students as well as the underlying effects their background can bring. We now include participants from many different backgrounds and scenarios, including former foster-care youth, homeless and at-risk of homelessness youth, and those students entering as independent minors.

In my view, the most beneficial part of the Next Step program is that we have a group of mentors involved every step of the way. These mentors are current MTSU students who are from similar backgrounds and have now become successful students and graduates. These volunteer participants return to help our program semester after semester, offering to peer support and encouragement to our newest students.

Moreover, these mentors know the challenges associated with their independent status and have "been there and done that." Thus, they’re eager to work with Next Step’s newest students to help make achieving college success a little easier on them.

Our program, nonetheless, faces a big challenge in that we need the help of the MTSU community. Many of the youths we interact with from foster care, homelessness and independent status aren’t—and weren’t—aware that attending college was a viable option for them, not to mention that most or all of it could be paid for via outside means. However, through our partnerships with the Department of Children’s Services and the Tennessee Youth Advisory Council, we have been able to identify numerous youth in need of our program and its services, with many more still coming in weekly.

However, we fear there are still those being missed. My plea to you, the MTSU community, is this: If you know of any students coming to MTSU—or even currently enrolled students—whom you feel may benefit from this program, please let me know or pass along my contact information.

The Next Step mentors and I are excited about the possibilities this program holds and the far-reaching effects we could have on these students, but we can help if we don’t know who needs our help. It is our mission to reach every student who can benefit from our program and services. Needless to say, the transition to college can be challenging for all students. With many other life hurdles and obstacles to overcome, this particular student population could use some extra support, and that’s what we’re here for and why we work so hard to make this Next Step a success.

So again, if you have any questions about the program or know of a student or potential student who could use our assistance, please feel free to send them my way.

For more info: To learn more about the program, please access www.mtsu.edu/nextstep or contact Seul directly via e-mail at rseul@mtsu.edu or by calling 615-494-8910.

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