Matthew Ramirez, the TJC director of student success and of TJC Promise, encourages students to take advantage of the services offered by college success coaches to stay on track.
Q: How did you become a college coach?
A: I was a first-generation college student. I received a scholarship to TJC many years ago and had a mentor in that process that helped me become successful here. As a student that transferred to Texas A&M after graduating in high school, I ran that nonprofit that awarded me the scholarship called the Faulconer scholarship program. Where I then replaced my mentor’s spot and mentored hundreds of students that attended TJC, which eventually led me to the promise, which has our own success coaches here.
Q: What is the TJC Promise program?
A: The Promise is a program that was started six years ago, where ninth graders can sign up in high school — if they attend one of the 20 participating high schools. They have to meet certain requirements each year of high school pertaining to persistence, attendance and community service. If they meet those requirements every year and they choose to attend TJC after high school graduation, we ensure that they do not have to pay tuition in fees for up to two years, and then they also get the dedicated support services like coaching.
Q: How long have you been a part of this program?
A: The college coaching program is newer. We piloted a small program, a small portion of it last year. This year is the first semester it is being more fully released. We had several hundred students sign up for the program last semester.
Q: If students are interested how do they get involved with this program?
A: If students want to be paired with a coach, then all they have to do is simply go to tjc.edu/success, and on the middle of that page, there’s an easy form they can fill out that just asks a couple questions. They will be reached out to really within 24 to 48 hours, pairing them with a coach that matches their interest. The coaches are employees of TJC. Any employee can sign up to be a coach. Then what we do is we pair those employees with the students that sign up. The first way we pair off is by major. To give you an example, if you wanted to be a journalist we would pair you with an employee who has done journalism on campus. For example, one of our coaches was a journalist for Tyler paper for many years. So who better to help somebody in that field than someone who’s done it as a profession. So first we pair students based off of major. Now if you’re in general studies and you don’t know but you know, if you want to transfer to UT Tyler, SFA, or A&M, they will pair you with an employee who has attended one of those colleges or universities. Again, who better to help you transfer than someone who’s already attended. If you don’t know your major, if you don’t know where you want to go, but you have some general ideas which you want to do, then we’ll base off those interests.
Q: Why should students get college coaching?
A: People should come get college coaching for many reasons. It’s enjoyable, and you get to meet somebody in the field that you want to study in. The research shows that students who know a faculty or staff member outside the classroom tend to think more highly of the campus. They tend to enjoy the process and they tend to be more successful in college.
Q: What is the most important takeaway from coming in and learning these techniques?
A: It’s very important to seek guidance, seek help. Nobody is successful alone or in isolation. Everyone who’s reached a high level of success has done it because they’ve gotten some type of support or guidance or knowledge from probably multiple people, not just one, and this is one of many ways that they can get that needed help so that they can be as successful as possible in your academic journey.
Q: Tell me a moment that you felt like you made an impact on a student’s life?
A: When I first started coaching students, we had a TJC student of the first generation who attempted too many hours for his first semester, and was working as a busboy at three different restaurants. His first semester did not go well at TJC, and after really just two or three meetings with him and providing some knowledge that he wasn’t aware of, he was able to turn things around. By his fourth semester at TJC, he had gotten into Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M, which at the time, I think they took 50 students out of 800 out of the whole world, and most students were international, they weren’t even from the states. And so that was one of many exciting moments that showed me how impactful just pointing students in the right direction can be.
Q: How did TJC come to have a service like this for student development?
A: The college gets to develop a quality enhancement plan every 10 years, every time we go through accreditation (renewed educational programs), and the college gets to choose what that would consist of. There was an overwhelming desire from faculty, alumni and students to develop some type of mentoring coaching program.
Q: What specifically do the coaches help with during a session?
A: It’s individualized, so it’s dependent on what that student’s needs might be. It can be anything from time management, study habits and finances about that general major. That one tends to be a big one and then of course if they’re paired by college you know, what is that transfer university? How to transfer, what does that look like? When should someone transfer? and then typically also questions about their field. What does it look like to be an accountant or in marketing, you know, their communications day to day? What does that really entail? Someone’s spending years to become that major; it’s helpful to have somebody who actually knows.
Q: Do you have anything else you would like to add?
A: I would just encourage students that are on the fence about signing up, to do it. The only requirement is that they just meet at least once that semester with their assigned coach. It’s intended to be enjoyable, even if a student is doing well but they don’t know what the next steps are in college, then this coach could be a really great resource for them.
TJC College Success Coaches offer one-on-one sessions so students are not distracted. This allows students to ask more questions and feel like they are heard. Sessions are available to all students and can be made in person at the Scholarship Building within the Wesley Annex at 1443 Baxter Ave, or online at tjc.edu/success.