Getting That Summer Advantage
For many students, especially Lilly Kensicki and Nina Lozada, Kent State’s University Summer Advantage saves time and money – but it can also make dreams come true.
Kensicki, a senior mechatronics engineering technology major, got the opportunity to be part of Summer Advantage in summer 2023. The program helped Kensicki complete a class required for her major and gave her the opportunity to go to Walt Disney World to take her dream for a test drive.
“My dream job is to be an Imagineer with Disney. I completed all the workshops, and I did well in my class, so I could apply for this. It was perfect; things don't line up like that usually,” Kensicki said. “We spent fall break in Disney learning about leadership, park design and immersive storytelling. I was like, ‘Wow this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’ It really kickstarted that feeling of motivation.”
Summer Advantage assists Kent State students with remaining on track toward graduation. The program helps cover the cost of up to a three-credit hour class and provides assistance with books, course supplies and housing. The program also includes workshops to support both professional and academic goals and peer support for academic, financial and personal connections.
Summer Advantage is designed with all students in mind.
Lozada, a senior criminology and justice studies major, participated in the Summer Advantage program in the summer of 2023. For students like Lozada, the program means being able to take a class free of charge and help ease the credit load of an upcoming semester all while staying on track to graduate.
“The Summer Advantage program helped me a lot because I was 18 credit hours behind to graduate. So, I would have been taking 18 credit hours this semester if I didn't go through it. But now I'm just taking 15 credit hours and then finally, at the end of this year, I'm graduating,” Lozada said.
Summer Advantage workshops focus on key topics like finances, time management and other student-focused themes designed to help soon-to-be graduates prepare for life beyond Kent State.
“The one that helped me the most was the one centered around Federal Government Aid. It talked about what government aid is and what is provided for you at Kent State. I did look into some of those, and I actually realized in September I got a grant for over the summer because you can get a grant for being an Ohio resident and then just going to go into school,” Lozada said.
Because of Summer Advantage, Kensicki was able to stay on course to graduate while seeing where her major could take her after graduation.
"Not only did the Summer Advantage program help me to further my educational path, but it really kind of sparked that career path and the follow through that I am now pursuing,” Kensicki said.
A lot of work has been put into the program to make sure it serves students in the best way possible. It is because of the faculty and staff’s hard work that the program has been named a finalist for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ 2023 Degree Completion Award, which recognizes public universities that increase graduation rates and total numbers of degrees awarded while improving educational access, quality and equity.
“It really is a demonstration of our collective work here at Kent State and our commitment to helping students reach graduation,” said Melanie Jones, director of Student Success Programs. “I think it’s the day-to-day effort that typically isn’t seen by our faculty and staff who are committed to our access mission here at Kent State to helping students get to graduation. So, it really just is that demonstration of the collective effort.”
It’s not just the people housed within Student Success Programs and who work on Summer Advantage that help give Kent State students access to education. It’s a team effort between advisors, academic colleges, One Stop for Student Services, the Academic Success Center, and the Career Exploration and Development Center to create that access for students.
Jones said that being a finalist for the award is an honor and will help Kent State continue to ensure that all students have access to an education while at Kent State.
“I think in general it will help us further demonstrate and give the recognition of the exemplary ways of the university’s support around the access mission around student success,” Jones said. “I think it will continue to allow us to demonstrate that overall outstanding effort that we put forth to make sure that students not only feel a sense of belonging here at Kent State, but that they are also able to graduate from Kent State and do great things beyond.”