Polk State College’s First-Year Experience is a comprehensive onboarding program that provides first-time-in-college students with robust resources including success coaching and career exploration, and for Associate in Arts students specifically, the First-Year Seminar course.
For three freshmen, the First-Year Seminar not only put them on paths to success in their academic endeavors; it also allowed them to establish a strong friendship, which represents how Polk State’s First-Year Experience is not only setting students up for success in college, but also in life.
“We get them acclimated to the campus…, we talk about the importance of building relationships with your peers…, and they help each other out because we know that knowledge is interconnected,” Professor of College Success Von McGriff said. “That makes a better student.”
Lashaunti Bostick, Edgar Neito, and Arianna Torres come from diverse backgrounds. Bostick, from Polk County, met Neito and Torres – from South Florida and Virginia, respectively – when they enrolled in McGriff’s FYS class. They each noted Polk State’s affordability and flexible class options as reasons for enrolling at the College over other colleges and universities.
“At first, it was very nerve-wracking,” Torres admitted about starting college. “But [the FYS] class helped me make new friends and learn about new experiences. Now, I can apply those lessons to my daily life.”
The friendship they established in the class has also translated into their daily lives and outside the classroom.
“My experience at both Polk State and in the FYS class has been absolutely amazing. I’ve made a lot of friends in the FYS and Professor McGriff made sure of that.”
“We may not be in all the same classes, but we hang out outside of class and help each other with studying, and we hang out outside of school,” Neito said. “We’ve built a really strong support system and it’s nice to have that.”
Professor McGriff fostered a sense of family in their FYS course, they explained.
“We always did activities together, we were always trying to communicate more, and we started feeling more comfortable opening up,” Neito said.
“My experience at both Polk State and in the FYS class has been absolutely amazing,” Bostick added. “I’ve made a lot of friends in the FYS and Professor McGriff made sure of that.”
The First-Year Experience (FYE) provides students with critical support, resources, and connections early in their college journeys to assist them in achieving their academic goals in a timely manner. It provides them with the knowledge of where to go to ask for help about a variety of topics, from registering for classes and applying for financial aid, to utilizing tools including tutoring and libraries.
FYE launched in the fall of 2015 with the goal of improving retention and completion rates of first-time-in-college students, and it has proven successful. In 2019, it received the Chancellor’s Best Practice Award for its success and innovative approach to bolstering student success.
McGriff explained how the friendship among Bostick, Neito, and Torres serves as a shining example of the success that results from initiatives like this.
“My hope [is] that everyone in all of our courses is able to walk away with the same feeling – that intrinsic reward – as well as friendships.”
Professor of College Success
“Their story is amazing because they embraced everything that we talked about in the course: diversity, careers, building friendships, making lasting relationships, and staying connected,” McGriff said. “My hope [is] that everyone in all of our courses is able to walk away with the same feeling – that intrinsic reward – as well as friendships.”
Students echoed this sentiment.
“Your future…, [is] about networking. One day, I may need them for something, or they may need me for something,” Neito said. “Those friendships build better communities.”
“It’s really important to have those connections and resources,” Bostick said. “You never know who you are going to need to talk to about something, even if it is just talking to your professor or your classmate about a problem you may have.”
“You know that you have someone by your side helping you every step of the way,” Torres said.