Jasmine Lofton could have easily become a statistic.
When she became a mother at age 17, she could have become one of the 50 percent of teen parents that don’t graduate from high school. But in August of 2019, she capped a winding route that began in community college by graduating from Eastern Kentucky University with a 3.9 GPA —with son Jasen at her side.
“I was determined to beat the odds as a teen parent and set an example for other people in my situation,” she says. “I want other young, single parents to see that it is possible and there are resources available to help them succeed in school.”
Lofton’s story is just one example of the impact of EKU’s student success infrastructure, which helps students overcome challenges and stay on course to graduate. For Lofton, the key was the Center for Student Parents, where she found acceptance and support. For others, the key might be the Colonel’s Cupboard, which meets student needs such as food, clothing, or toiletry items. It might also be the retention program, or the advice of a career counselor.
Those are all part of the wealth of services available through EKU’s Division of Student Success, the nexus of which is the Student Success Center. Located on the first floor of the Crabbe Library, students can visit the center for help with course work, financial aid, study skills, stress management, and more.
“It’s really a whole suite of programs centered on helping students move up,” says Elizabeth Ballou, EKU’s executive director of enrollment management. “If you look at the population that we serve, we have a lot of students who are the first in their family to come to school. We want to do everything we can to help those students realize the great opportunities presented to them through a college degree.”
Outreach and support
There is no easy explanation as to why some students don’t finish college. Academic struggles, social issues, homesickness, outside pressures and more all play a role.
That’s why EKU’s Division of Student Success performs what Ballou calls “preemptive outreach,” to identify students who are most at risk and change their trajectory. Four weeks into the semester, faculty members let advisors know if work or class attendance has slipped. Advisors then contact their students to offer the support and resources they need.
“We hear the stories all the time,” said Ballou. “There are students who come to EKU thinking they were ready to go away to school. They thought they were prepared, and then they get here and realize it's a little bigger than they were anticipating. So we do a lot of outreach.”
The division’s approach to that outreach, according to Ballou, is active rather than passive. “Even if they don't recognize that they need some additional help, we have people reaching out to them and monitoring their progress. It speaks to the wraparound nature of the services that we provide, and the fact that we don't necessarily wait for the students to recognize they need some help.”
For further support, the Student Assistance and Intervention Team steps in to offer help to emotionally troubled students — such as those showing a notable change of behavior, or expressing potentially destructive thoughts — before the situation reaches a crisis point. The EKU Counseling Center also offers confidential services to enrolled students, with workshops and support groups also available.
Just small enough, just large enough
It could be EKU’s credo: just small enough, just large enough. The university is small enough to provide students with personal attention from faculty and staff, but large enough to offer the social and cultural elements students would expect at a state university.
That certainly extends to the support presented through Student Success, which provides programs for everyone from incoming freshmen to those on the cusp of graduation. Opened in 2010, the Student Success Center offers services on a drop-in basis. There are programs for military members and veterans, retention scholarships to help students stay in school, counselors who help students learn to write cover letters and dress for interviews, and so much more.
“We make every effort to provide services to our students,” Ballou says. “We are really here to support the students in any way we can.”
Interested in learning more? Contact the EKU Division of Student Success at (859) 622-2642, stop by their office at 521 Lancaster Ave. in Richmond, Kentucky, or visit their website at StudentSuccess.EKU.Edu.