Achievemient Coaches: Provide Adult Students with the Guidance Needed for Success

Article excerpt

Central New Mexico Community College (CNM), formerly Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute, began as a small trade school in 1965. It has now become the largest institution of higher education in New Mexico in terms of enrollment, offering 78 certificate and 45 associate degree programs in applied technologies; business and information technology; communication, humanities and social sciences; health, wellness and public safety; and mathematics, science and engineering. While most educational institutions offer student support in the form of academic advisers and counselors, Kathie W. Winograd, CNM's president stated, "In regard to support services for our students, CNM is a trailblazer. Beyond academic advisers, we have a unique collection of special student advocates--achievement coaches--who are here to encourage and help students overcome obstacles and personal life challenges."

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Role of the Achievement Coach

In 1997, the first achievement coach was hired through funding from the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act and placed in the School of Applied Technologies. Today there are 14 achievement coaches providing academic and personal coaching to CNM students in all of the college's six schools. Each achievement coach has a master's degree and comes from various backgrounds, such as counseling, academic advising and teaching. A frequently asked question from students, faculty and staff at CNM is: "What is the difference between what an academic adviser does and what an achievement coach does?" Academic advisers assist students prior to starting their classes. They provide program information and may recommend classes for the upcoming semester. They arc also knowledgeable about transferring credits and graduation requirements. An achievement coach assists students once they are in their classes. Students who find they are struggling with test taking, study skills and time management can meet with an achievement coach to create a success plan.

To achieve student success, achievement coaches use coaching tools and strategies to acknowledge and build on the strengths of students. Through the use of coaching strategies, achievement coaches partner with students to foster critical thinking, decision making, goal setting and action planning that empower the student as the expert and the one responsible for implementing these tools. These skills enhance the student's ability to balance academic and home life, accept, personal responsibility, and to increase the probability of completion of his or her intended college goals. These skills also become valuable for the students' transition to the workplace.

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Why the Model Works

One of the advantages of the achievement coach model is that an achievement coach is located within each school of the college. This allows each school to better serve its population of students. According to Nicholas Spezza, clean of health wellness and public safety, the role of the achievement coach in the career and technical education (CTF) school is "to support student success via a focus on student's strengths, academic and life planning, and connecting students to needed resources in order to be successful in the vigorous programs within health wellness and public safety. Achievement coaches also work with faculty and administration in a team approach to support learning as an overarching concept. …