The dynamics of Thrive’s learning communities

By CHRIS EDWARDS

Cathy Bradford, Thrive Co-Founder. Photo by Chris Edwards.
Cathy Bradford, Thrive Co-Founder. Photo by Chris Edwards.

Thrive is a recently developed first-year program at KSU that offers support to students as they transition into college by offering the best of academic strategies with innovative practices of student success.

“One of the best things that Thrive does is that it introduces students to people that care about them,” said Cathy Bradford, the director of learning communities and one of Thrive’s first graduation coaches.

Thrive incorporates community-based curricular and co-curricular activities to help students who are entering college, get engaged and succeed.

Thrive begins the program by selecting 250 high school students who are HOPE scholarship eligible. When selected, students have access to early registration and pre-college workshops hosted prior to entering KSU in the fall.

Learning Communities

When the fall semester begins, students are required to join a learning community. In this learning community, students of Thrive attend classes together in order to build networking skills. Bradford says students who are engaged in learning communities are better able to develop social connections.

Emmanuel Brown is a fourth-year student at Kennesaw State University who was a member of a Thrive business learning community during his first year. Brown says the communities have helped him develop better communication skills.

“In your first year, it kind of helps when you know someone in at least three of your classes so you have someone to depend on and talk to,” said Brown
Service Leadership and Graduation Coaching
As the fall semester ends, Thrive students are expected to be involved with a service leadership activity of their choice. Options for service leadership activities include co-curricular leadership classes, student leadership, and the coordination of certain campus events.

Upon completion of the service leadership activity, Thrive students receive a leadership certificate. Brown received his last year after assisting with peer leadership and recruiting. The service leadership activity is designed to help motivate students to lead on their own.

Thrive students are expected to meet with assigned graduation coaches twice during their first-year. After the first year, students are no longer required to visit with graduation coaches, but are encouraged to do so as needed.

Thrive students are able to meet with these graduation coaches for academic advising or personal help with problems faced during their college career.

Samantha Abney is a second-year student that meets with her advisor weekly.

“You have somebody that you can go to if you are struggling with signing up for classes or you don’t know what to take, or if you are just struggling with classes in general,” says Abney.
Results of Thrive

Thrive aims to help underclass students maintain the HOPE scholarship, to stay in school and graduate. Many students drop out from college if they lose the HOPE Scholarship to help financially.

According to a Thrive Program report, students who maintain the HOPE scholarship graduate at a rate of 51 percent of the population, while students who lose the scholarship after the first year, graduate at a rate of 38 percent.

The impact that Thrive has had on graduation rates is unknown yet, as this year will be the first graduating class that has been influenced by the program.

“What we do know is that more students who are in Thrive, stay in school,” says Bradford.

Thus far, Thrive has positively impacted student retention and HOPE scholarship eligibility after the first year. Thrive is anticipating positive results regarding graduation rates that would lead to additional funding for the program.

Bradford says the additional funding would allow for the program to grow, supporting additional first-year students. She thinks that with proper funding, the Thrive program could support 1000 first-year students in the future.

 

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