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students who run workshops on success
strategies and model student success for
their struggling peers.
"We keep a connection with our students, letting
them know we are here whenever they need us
to help them stay on track and succeed," said
Welch. "Once a student is connected to someone
on campus, we have a better chance of
retaining them."
"We are very intrusive," added Armstrong.
"We are starting to visit classrooms to bring our
services directly to the students."
Being embedded in the academic departments
has also given the Achievement Coaches the
opportunity to create interventions for students
having difficulty in certain topics or courses.
For example, Welch is helping expand the
peer-led study groups to include accounting,
an area in which a lot of Business students
struggle. She is also working with the Criminal
Justice Department to create workshops on
interpersonal communications for students who
have a public-speaking presentation as part of
their final projects.
What advice would Achievement Coaches Arm-
strong and Welch give to their college-age selves?
"Use the resources," said Armstrong, who
struggled his first semester in college. "The Navy
taught us to be prideful sometimes too prideful
to ask for assistance. When you find yourself
struggling, talk to someone, make a connection."
"Take advantage of every resource," agreed Welch.
"There are so many things available here
at Middlesex use them."
Jennifer Myers
When John Balbuena, a 20-year-old graduate
of Greater Lowell Technical High School, first
arrived at Middlesex, he didn't know how to
get involved. He just went to class and
went home.
But everything changed once he discovered the
Multicultural Center on the Lowell campus.
As a bilingual Hispanic student, the Lowell
native quickly discovered he could make a
difference by helping students who don't
speak English fluently find opportunities and
resources on campus.
Balbuena has been chosen as one of three
Peer Mentors to work with Achievement
Coaches Melissa Welch and Lonnie Armstrong,
assisting minority and at-risk students achieve
success at Middlesex. One of the goals of
the peer mentor program is to help bridge the
college-completion "achievement gap" that is
particularly pronounced among male Hispanic
and African-American college students.
While his mother earned a bachelor's
degree and the value of education was always
stressed in his family, Balbuena has come to
realize that's not the case for many of his fellow
students. He now understands they just might
need the extra support and encouragement they
may not be getting at home.
"I'm really looking forward to working with
students to get help in classes they are
struggling with, or helping them get involved
in a program or club," said Balbuena. "I think
students find it easier to talk to another
student than to a teacher, and I want to help
them stay on track to graduating."
A Criminal Justice student, he plans to
transfer to UMass Lowell after graduating
from MCC in 2016. His ultimate goal is to work
for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
or the FBI.
Balbuena also enjoyed improving his
communication and leadership skills by
attending the Multicultural Center's Diversity
Summit, held in Maine over Spring Break.
There, students from all backgrounds held
open discussions about the issues affecting
them and their communities.
"We are the ones who will change the
world," he said.
Jennifer Myers
Helping Other Students
as a
Peer Mentor
"I think students
find it easier to talk
to another student
than to a teacher,
and I want to help
them stay on track
to graduating"
John Balbuena, peer mentor
Student Success
John Balbuena is one of three peer mentors.
Steering Students to the Resources
They Need to Succeed and Graduate