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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Change agents

Members of Student 2 Student meet once a month with Boiling Springs High School students in order to coach them through the college application and selection process, catering to potential first-generation college students in particular.
Members of Student 2 Student meet once a month with Boiling Springs High School students in order to coach them through the college application and selection process, catering to potential first-generation college students in particular.

By: Sarah Madden, Senior Writer

Recently, Wofford senior Donovan Hicks was the keynote speaker at a pep rally for the incoming freshman class at Boiling Springs High School, encouraging students to seek out a college education. For Hicks, spreading this message to Boiling Springs High School students is nothing new.

Boiling Springs has one guidance counselor per grade, he says.

“That’s on average, one guidance counselor for 465 students.”

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Thanks to the effort of Student 2 Student, 45 Wofford students now serve as coaches alongside these guidance counselors, mentoring high school students who otherwise might not attend college.

Hicks started Student 2 Student after Boiling Springs students contacted him asking for advice about college, he says.

“I wrangled up some Wofford students, and we started with five coaches and five students that met once a month. Now we mentor 34 high school students including sophomores, juniors and seniors.”

The program, also known as S2S, has grown in its three years as an organization to include a training program for coaches, grade-specific goals for students to reach with their coaches and parent meetings.

“At first I was helping students edit their college essays, but this need goes beyond essays that get written once,” says Hicks. “College students can do a lot more than just edit essays.”

“Students that go through our program are the middle-achieving students that would otherwise get lost in the mix,” says Hicks. “Members of our senior class this year have already been accepted to the College of Charleston, Winthrop, Coastal Carolina University, University of South Carolina, USC Upstate… and some are even considering Wofford.”

For Hicks, connecting with potential first generation college students is crucial: “I just did not have the resources. It wasn’t that people weren’t willing to help, but when I looked around at family and friends, none of them were able to walk me through that process. I would have loved this. I wish I had this. The whole goal of this project is to increase the potential of first generation college students.”

For Catherine Ann Earley, ’18, serving as a coach is about giving high school students the same support she feels she received. “I believe that every student who wants to attend college should be able to attend, so I am happy to help the students at BSHS in any way possible,” she says. “My guidance counselor really helped keep me on track in the college application process… Everyone should have this same guidance so it is important to me that I offer my help to others who may need it.”

Madeline Labovitz, ’18, Student 2 Student’s event coordinator, says that the need for this kind of organization is “imperative” and that the relationship between students and coaches is unique.

“I joined because I wanted to be some assistance in the overwhelming process of college applications and selection.”

For Labovitz, this interaction is more complex than just monthly meetings: “The organization relies on many people to pull their own weight including Wofford Students and the high school students alike. Sometimes commitment can be a challenge on both ends,” she says.

One of the solutions to this challenge of commitment and communication is Austin Seilkop, Student 2 Student’s data analyst. He sends out surveys to coaches, collecting qualitative and quantitative feedback form meetings.

His service to high school seniors feels full circle: “I was in a program like S2S helping transition students into high school, but I didn’t have anyone (except my guidance counselor) helping me transition into college. I am excited for the future of Student 2 Student, and I hope that [this model] can expand beyond Wofford College.”

Hicks says that his primary concern is ensuring Student 2 Student’s sustainability, and that the leadership team has played a large role in making this possible.

“We are functioning as a quasi-nonprofit. Campus Union helps fund us, we sell ourselves to parents, high school students and potential Wofford volunteers, we meet goals and we come up with stats to show progress and success. This functions as a real non-profit and translates well for the leadership team.”

Another important factor in the future of S2S is the Wofford students that join, says Hicks.

“I’ve been so impressed with how many Wofford students got involved,” he says.  “This shows that Wofford students really do want to give back, and they really do have a heart to serve other people – they just need opportunities. I was so impressed with how quickly other Wofford students jumped on board. We had freshmen tearing down our table this year, wanting to be involved. This is a very hands on opportunity for them to make a difference.”

One of the first students to go through the program was given a full scholarship to Limestone College, says Hicks.

“His mentor, Bradley Benson ’17, did such a good job showing him his strengths, and teaching him to sell himself. [The student] was such a deer in headlights when we first met him – he didn’t have much direction and couldn’t afford a lot for college. Additionally, he didn’t want to put financial burden on his family. But he made it happen.”

According to Hicks, however, the biggest story of this year’s program is the number of students “who think of Wofford as a place for them, or as a goal that they can achieve. They are competing for top scholarships at Wofford.”

Instead of dismissing the possibility of a college education, “they’re being proactive about it,” says Hicks. “We’ve been getting a lot more talk recently, both at Wofford and at the high school. We’re still growing.”

Though he technically founded the organization, Hicks says that his peers have kept the program alive.

“This is not another Donovan thing. This is a Wofford student thing. Kalen Alverson ’16 did so much, especially early on,” he says. “She was so committed to this vision and put so much of her own time into it and made the organization possible. If not for Kalen, this program wouldn’t have gotten off the ground. I’m very grateful for her.”

The current leadership is optimistic about Student 2 Student’s future, says Seilkop.

“We are sad Donovan is leaving us this year, but we won’t let him down. We are excited about the future of S2S.”

“This program allows Wofford students to be change agents, which is really important to me,” says Hicks. “Reach back, give back. I never thought I’d be going back to my alma mater so much, but I’m okay with being that kid.”


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