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MHCC will hire success specialists to help students navigate higher education and plan careers

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: MHCC - Mt. Hood Community College Student Success specialist Stephanie English works with student Erika Cardenas.  Mt. Hood Community College was recently awarded a $893,000 grant designed to recruit and bolster college students who are low-income or under-represented in higher education.

MHCC said it would use the $892,711 state grant to pay several student success specialists to work with students on college navigation, career planning and basic computer literacy. These specialists also will assist students in applying for other funding such as from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) scholarships and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds.

"The idea is that we have one point of contact for lots of services for these students," said Joy Jerome Turtola, MHCC's workforce development director and the manager of the Student Success grant. He explained that a student facing barriers doesn't get sent all over campus for various sorts of assistance, but can get it in one office from one person.

"If I am a student who needs financial aid, help with transportation or help with the cost of my books, I can go to one person," he noted. "We can leverage a whole variety of resources for a student."

The Oregon Student Success Grants are designed to help community colleges focus on recruiting and supporting first-generation college students and students from low-income backgrounds and underrepresented populations. They are disbursed by Oregon's Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

"Student Success Specialists offer wraparound support to students who may be entirely new to the college experience," said Turtola. "Additionally, the grant will provide funding for unmet needs, such as tuition, books, fees and support services like transportation and emergency housing."

Beginning in July, students can meet with a Student Success Specialist at multiple MHCC locations and WorkSource Gresham. Students eligible for grant services also can access MHCC's Bridge Program, a comprehensive college training seminar offered before each term.

MHCC participated in a two-year pilot project for the Student Success Grants, which are part of the first regular round of state grants.

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