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APSU, CMCSS camp works to ease Transition many Students encounter between High School, College

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – As the Austin Peay State University (APSU) newest students enter their first college classes on Monday – the first day of the fall semester – 29 of them will do so with a sense of accomplishment and eagerness.

They are the 29 incoming freshmen who earlier this month completed a two-week student success camp at Austin Peay State University.

At the camp – a partnership between Austin Peay State University and the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System (CMCSS) – the students strived to ease their transition from high school to college.

The camp’s leaders had a similar goal – tailoring the program to help students feel more comfortable in a post-secondary setting.
 
“Coming to college can be intimidating,” said Dr. Meagan Mann, the program’s director and a professor in APSU’s Department of Chemistry. “This is a program to help students focus on areas of academic fear.
 
“A lot of students can do the math, but they’re terrified of it. This program helps build their confidence and their competency in reading, writing, and math.”

Reducing ‘summer melt’

AVID tutor Suzanne Mapps leads one of the morning classes at Sundquist Science Complex. (APSU)
AVID tutor Suzanne Mapps leads one of the morning classes at Sundquist Science Complex. (APSU)

The free camp was powered by a Tennessee Board of Regents Student Engagement, Retention and Success Initiative (SERS) grant titled “Increasing College Readiness and Decreasing Summer Melt” to increase enrollment, persistence, and degree completion of students who are at the highest risk of “summer melt.” Summer melt is the phenomenon where recent high school graduates enter summer eager for college but that eagerness “melts” away because they lack the knowledge, resources, and support to pursue post-secondary education.

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The camp aligns with the mission of the Greater Together Bridge Program – to increase access and college preparedness to decrease summer melt in the local school system’s students. The Greater Together partnership includes APSU, CMCSS, Nashville State Community College’s Clarksville campus, and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology campuses in Dickson and Clarksville.

By providing an individualized academic boot camp and mentoring in career planning, academic advising, and college success strategies, APSU and CMCSS leaders hope to guide these students from high school into post-secondary education, generating more college-educated adults entering the local workforce.

“I tailor the program to each of their needs,” Mann said. “These students are not doing the same thing. Some of them have more math or reading or writing, and some of them have a little of everything.”

Gaining a better footing

APSU student Patricia Angel, left, and Hara lead one of the morning classes at Sundquist Science Complex. (APSU)
APSU student Patricia Angel, left, and Hara lead one of the morning classes at Sundquist Science Complex. (APSU)

Eight mentors with connections to Austin Peay State University or CMCSS helped to teach the lessons. Many of the mentors are Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) tutors at CMCSS, and a couple of the tutors are current APSU students.

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Suzanne Mapps has been a CMCSS AVID tutor for three years and discussed the joy she had teaching reading comprehension to the camp’s students.

“They give me hope in the new generation,” she said. “They’re way smarter than I am in a lot of things, and I think we need that diversity and mental toughness.”

She spent time with the students “connecting ideas, thinking about the bigger pictures of how you can connect what you read to your world.”

“You can better understand it because you can understand where you’ve been or something you’ve read before,” Mapps said. “We’re learning reading strategies to make sure that they get to the end goal of being better students.”

The students in the camp are pursuing a variety of educational and career goals. A sampling of degree goals included psychology, physics, mechanical engineering, marketing, music and history.

“These students are bright,” Mapps said. “It’s just a matter of testing and learning strategies, learning how to study. Because of this camp, they’ll have a better footing, a better grasp of what college is going to look like and the skills they need to succeed.”


‘I’ve seen the growth’

Diana Hara, former principal at Burt Elementary School, leads one of the morning class sessions at Sundquist Science Complex. (APSU)
Diana Hara, former principal at Burt Elementary School, leads one of the morning class sessions at Sundquist Science Complex. (APSU)

Patricia Angel, an Austin Peay State University junior studying foreign language with a concentration in German, is another AVID tutor who taught at the camp.

The camp not only allowed her to help incoming freshmen adapt to college, but it gave her the experience she needs to pursue her goals.

“I would love to be a teacher in CMCSS to give back to my community because I grew up here,” she said. “I want to become a better teacher on my pathway to teaching.”

Angel recalled her transition to college.

“When you go to any university, you feel like a cog in the big machine,” she said. “At this camp, the students are forming these small groups and working together – I didn’t get that experience during my first year in college, especially with the pandemic.
 
“They’re getting that interaction, and they’re seeing all these resources,” she added. “They can see me, as a college student, successful in my junior year, and they’re starting out thinking, ‘I can see this person can do it, I can do it as well.’”
 
Angel witnessed the students’ growth over the two weeks.
 
“I’ve seen the growth, I’ve seen that (the lessons) are getting to them,” she said. “Also, they’re better able to interact with each other and ask more questions.”

Heading into college with a leg up

The students at the camp also had access to Austin Peay State University leaders from all over campus who answered questions about financial aid and class registration. They also encountered questions about APSU’s Learning Resource Center and how undergraduates could participate in research.
 
“I can’t guarantee all of them will be successful, but I think that we’re looking at a group who has a leg up compared to the average college student,” she said. “They’re building up a knowledge base to hit the door running, and that’s a really good way for them to be successful at Austin Peay.”

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