Students studying outside the library

Change Agents

Wofford students coach high school students through the college application process

S2S 382

Wofford senior Donovan Hicks was the keynote speaker at a pep rally for the incoming class at Boiling Springs High School. His message: go to college.

For Hicks, a government and finance major from Boiling Springs, S.C., spreading this message to Boiling Springs High School students is nothing new.

BSHS has one guidance counselor per grade says Hick. “That’s on average one guidance counselor for 465 students.” Thanks to the efforts of Student 2 Student, however, 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. In response he formed a group that pairs Wofford mentors with local high school students to offer coaching through the college selection and process. The college student coaches meet with their students monthly.

“I wrangled up some Wofford students. We started with five coaches and five students," says Hicks. "Now S2S mentors 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 and grade-specific goals for students.

“At first I was helping students edit their college essays, but this need goes beyond essays,” says Hicks. “College students can do a lot more than just edit essays. Students who go through our program are the middle-achieving students who sometimes get lost in the mix. Members of the Boiling Springs High School senior class this year have already been accepted to the College of Charleston, Winthrop University, 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 and the real reason that this is so important to him.

“When I was in high school, 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 because they had never been through it," he says. "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, a sophomore English major from Orangeburg, S.C, serving as a coach is about giving high school students the same support she feels she has 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.

Student 2 Student relies on organized volunteers, but these college students also realize the importance of data to drive improvement. Austin Seilkop, a sophomore chemistry and German major from Murfreesboro, Tenn., is Student 2 Student’s data analyst. He sends out surveys to coaches, collecting qualitative and quantitative feedback from student meetings. It's about the numbers for him, but it's also personal.

“I was in a program like S2S, but I didn’t have anyone (except my guidance counselor) helping me transition into college," he says. "I am excited for the future of Student 2 Student, and I hope that this model can expand beyond Wofford College.”

According to Hicks, the biggest success 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. We have a number of students competing for top scholarships at Wofford.”

Hicks may have founded the organization, but he says that his peers have kept the program alive. “This is a Wofford student thing. Kalen Alverson (a senior finance major from Chesnee, S.C.) 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.”

Hicks graduates this year, but current leadership is optimistic about Student 2 Student’s future.

“We are sad Donovan is leaving us this year, but we won’t let him or these high school students down," says Seilkop. "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.”

by Sarah Madden, Wofford Class of 2017