Urban Scholars is one of several pre-college programs that UMass Boston has. Their mission is to prepare students from their partnering high schools for success in high school as well as for enrollment and completion of higher education. The students that work within Urban Scholars are academically striving, and often enter the program with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Urban Scholars is a year-round initiative that works with students for multiple years throughout high school, and then tracks them for six years through college and support them, especially through the first year of college.
For students to self-regulate, they must be given the environment and freedom necessary to do so in a way that lets them feel autonomous and safe.
Relationships are very closely connected with Self-Regulation; having staff and mentors who students can relate to and who genuinely have the students’ best interests at heart is necessary.
Incentivizing students, if possible with a stipend, can mitigate the opportunity cost of attendance which can in some cases be very high otherwise.
Come to students where they are; don’t be afraid of texting or Snapchat. Students respond well when they are allowed to communicate on platforms they are comfortable with.
What do you find to be the most effective way to handle a situation when an individual is having a problem or is upset?
It’s all about relationship building. In this industry and especially this program, it’s really about getting to know students and building trust with them. When you do that, after you’ve built certain relationships and trust with students, it’s much easier to see them and talk to them as a human being, instead of as a boss or a teacher. Trying to empathize with them is the goal, and if you really are genuine with that, and genuinely want the best, and genuinely have the best intentions, they know that, and it’s much easier to talk to them in difficult situations. And you always have to challenge yourself to think about the end result. Especially if the end result is them being more disconnected as opposed to more connected to a program. If ultimately you’re kicking a student out of the program, there had better be a really good reason for it.
If there are issues with behavior or problems the students are having, do the students have a role in remediation for that, and if so, what’s the scope of that?
Not formally, in a lot of cases. It really is anomalous to have many problems with students, and I think that comes from being careful with culture-building. Making sure that all the staff understand that mentoring is a huge part of their job, which includes not only tutoring, but modelling appropriate behavior as well. Another important aspect of that is having staff who come from the same backgrounds as students, and keeping an open mind to behavioral norms of other cultures that a diverse staff would be aware of and accepting of.