WHAT IS COLLEGE STEPS?
The mission of College Steps is to provide supplemental support for students living with social, communication and learning disabilities. The primary goal of College Steps is to support the unique needs of students while preparing them for meaningful careers and increased autonomy after college. College Steps students are supported with a framework of supports including the following four core content areas are outlined below:
Academic Enrichment: No two learning styles are the same. Therefore, academic support is customized to the student’s preferences and needs. The College Steps team first works closely with each student to understand and identify areas of academic challenge and then collaboratively creates an individualized academic support program perfectly calibrated to respond. This may include support with note taking, group participation support, study skills sessions, time management guidance, test taking strategies, and homework support. Via College Steps’ model of peer-based support, much of the academic enrichment College Steps provides is offered through College Steps’ award-winning peer mentor system. However, on each of the campuses in which we partner, College Steps also works in close collaboration with Student Support Services, Disability Services, Academic Advising and Campus Tutoring to ensure optimal supports are in place and seamless communication occurs.
Social Integration: For many students, the prospect of cultivating new social connections in college can feel intimidating. Yet social and extracurricular involvement in college is shown to be a key element of student overall success and happiness. Therefore, College Steps offers students the support of our peer mentor network. Peer mentors are there to lend a hand and help College Steps students feel more comfortable as they navigate the college social network. Peer mentors are carefully selected, trained, and closely supervised by College Steps’ professional staff. The peer mentor network is central to College Steps’ natural support model and has proven to be a vital component in helping to guide College Steps students through the nuances of social life on campus including forging friendships and encouraging involvement in new social activities. Peer Mentors help link College Steps students to the social element of college life via introduction to new clubs or activities, social groups, extracurricular events, and weekend activities. In addition, College Steps also incorporates more structured social learning opportunities via an evidence-based curriculum focusing on the advancement of social cognition, social awareness, and social thinking.
Living and Independence: From foundational skills like navigating public transportation and maintaining a healthy diet to more complex skills like managing personal finances, the development of independent living skills is an essential element of success during and after college. Therefore, College Steps works to incorporate the development of these skills into each student’s ICP. The refinement of these skills has the secondary benefit of enhancing a student’s self-advocacy skills, communication skills, and overall level of self-esteem. The advancement of this component of the ICP is embedded into many facets of the services College Steps provides. In addition to fostering the development of these skills via on and off campus activities, College Steps also offers weekly independent living courses at each of the colleges in which we partner. This coursework pulls upon local professionals to present on their areas of processional expertise for the benefit of College Steps scholars (e.g., nutritionists, finance experts, personal trainers, etc.).
Pre-Employment Skills: Increasing the skills necessary to achieve gainful employment after graduation from college is a cornerstone of our work. College Steps professional skill development begins with core objectives such as learning resume development, professional etiquette, time management and communication styles within the workplace and progresses to more advanced skills such as job interviewing. During the course of the year in College Steps, all students have the option to take part in on-campus job shadowing experiences that will help them to develop their skills and build their refernces.
WHO DOES COLLEGE STEPS SUPPORT?
- High school transition students, age 16-21 years, interested in gaining a college primer, college certificate or working on career exploration experience prior to receiving high school diploma.
- College students ages 18-26 for whom navigating college is challenged by social, academic, or learning barriers.
HOW IS COLLEGE STEPS STAFFED?
College Steps manages and pays its staff to provide its relevant campus support. The staff includes a full-time, on-campus, Program Coordinator, a Workforce Development Coordinator, and Peer Mentors. Of note, all students enrolled in College Steps have provided reciprocal releases allowing College Steps’ Program Coordinators and professional staff to access relevant academic data in support of the student. This release also covers release of relevant academic data that pertains to support provided by College Steps staff.
ROLE OF PROGRAM COORDINATOR
The primary role of the Program Coordinator is to support the academic and social success of College Steps students on campus, manage the peer mentorship program, and coordinate with faculty and staff about student related matters. Any questions about College Steps services on campus should be directed to the College Steps Program Coordinator. Prior to each semester, Program Coordinators set up meetings with faculty members who will have College Steps students in their classroom to discuss course components and devise a support plan. The Program Coordinator will also engage in regular outreach to all participating faculty to check in on the student’s progress and support plan.
ROLE OF PEER MENTOR
Peer Mentors are enrolled undergraduate students at NOVA who are also paid employees of College Steps. Peer Mentors are trained and supervised by College Steps’ Program Coordinators to provide appropriate supports for College Steps scholars both in and out of the classroom.
WHAT PEER MENTORS DO:
- Space and faculty permission permitting, accompanies College Steps students to class to provide appropriate supports
- Assist student with appropriate social engagement within the classroom and on campus
- Encourages communication between College Steps student, faculty, and fellow students
- Provides appropriate modeling of classroom etiquette
- Supports student to advocate for accessibility of course material – as relevant
- Assists with executive functioning, organization, time management, study skills, test taking skills, assistive technology
- Provides connections to relevant campus supports
WHAT PEER MENTORS DO NOT DO:
- Serve as a note taker
- Assist the student with taking exams
- Complete assignments on behalf of the student
- Interface with faculty or staff on behalf of the student without the student present
- Advocate for the student without the student’s permission and presence