Underrepresented Students Sit in the Driver’s Seat of Their Own Success
Kelvin Mancebo dreams of the day when he is an air traffic controller. As a senior at Kent State University, Mancebo is majoring in aeronautics with a minor in aircraft dispatch. He is an exceptional student who made the Dean’s List in 2015 and 2016, and the President’s List in 2016, all while playing on the Kent State baseball team.
Mancebo is on course to graduate in the spring of 2018, but statistics show that not all underrepresented students – including first-generation, African-American, Latino/Latina and Native Americans – complete their education. In fact, there is a 20 percent difference in graduation rates between underrepresented students compared to those who are non-underrepresented.
To increase retention rates – and ultimately graduation rates – Kent State created its first-ever Summer Advantage Program through University College’s Academic Diversity Outreach department. The collaborative program works with all Kent State colleges, schools and departments to reach students in all areas of study, including aeronautics.
“I saw the opportunity to connect with underrepresented students like myself,” Mancebo says. “It’s something that I usually don't get to do during the academic year because of my hectic schedule.”
The program targets juniors and seniors who are 75 percent complete with their degree requirements.
For six weeks in the summer, the program provides housing for students to live on campus, two academic classes, help searching for an internship in their chosen field, academic support, career exploration and readiness, mentoring and service-learning ventures.
“It helped me realize some of the experiences my peers have accomplished, which helped me solidify an idea of where I should be in my career in terms of job-related experiences,” Mancebo says. “It also paid for one of my aeronautics courses over the summer, which will help me slightly lighten my coursework this upcoming semester.”
The goal of the program is to take what students are learning in the classroom and expose them to real-world experiences that spark career inspiration. Participants also work on their résumés, cover letters and elevator pitches.
“We put students in the driver’s seat of their own success by guiding and helping them learn what their potential is,” says Cason Brunt, academic program director in Kent State’s University College. “We accepted 51 students out of the 110 who applied for our first Summer Advantage Program. Next year, we hope to have the opportunity to expand and reach more students.”
Mancebo recommends that students take advantage of the program and apply next year. He says he is grateful for all he learned.
“Without the program, I feel like I still would be naive to what my job-related experiences should look like for the future,” he says. “I also wouldn't have taken my summer course due to the cost of out-of-state fees. Now I can focus on other things like applying for jobs, building a stronger résumé and potentially even completing an internship.”