Tyler Lambert, a 19-year-old from Yorktown, took advantage of the JumpStart orientation program at Thomas Nelson last year. The experience was so fulfilling; he didn’t hesitate to say yes when asked to be a mentor this year.
“I remember it being an enlightening experience, and I know I made a lot of friends in the program myself that I still keep in touch with. I felt I should at least try and repay the favor,” said Lambert, who is pursuing an associate degree in Social Science and aims to transfer to William & Mary next year.
JumpStart is a four-day orientation program for incoming students. The first two days feature team-building and inspirational exercises designed to get students out of their comfort zone and familiar with one another. The last two days involve information sessions covering finances, career planning and more. Students also learn about financial aid, where their classes are and how to obtain college IDs and parking permits. They are required to submit a one-page essay on career possibilities and they receive one credit for their SDV100 -College Success Skills requirement.
It’s all designed to ease students' transition from high school to college. Studies have shown when students get off to a good start in college, they are more likely to continue their education and eventually graduate.
“Our goal is retention and graduation,” said Educational Support Services Coordinator SaraLynn Goergen, who oversees JumpStart. “We work really hard to make sure the students have all the practical information that they need, but [also] to have a connection to campus that will keep them here to graduate.”
Menchville High School graduate Cameron Kahn was among incoming freshmen who participated in the program at the Hampton campus. At orientation, he noticed a flier about JumpStart and thought it would be a good way to get a head start on the college experience.
“I definitely learned a lot about team-building, and learned a lot on how to cooperate with others,” said 17-year-old Kahn.
He also said he learned about himself.
“I learned how different I am compared to everyone else, and how different everyone is as a whole,” he said. “It’s definitely cool seeing the unique backstories, and how everyone else is compared to me.”
This year, 33 students took part at the Hampton campus, and 20 participated at Thomas Nelson's campus in Williamsburg. Each session included five mentors and other College support staff.
Kahn, who is pursuing an associate degree in Social Science, said meeting new people was the best part of the week, which turned out better than he expected.
“It’s definitely been a great experience,” he said.
Lambert is sure the program helped him. “I think I would have had a little more trouble with class [if he hadn’t attended JumpStart],” Lambert said. “The transition is always going to be difficult, but I think it would have been a little more challenging not having this network of people.”