Black Student Success Network opens programming to all Black students at GBC
After a year of operating, the Black Student Success Network (BSSN) is now offering its services to all Black students at George Brown College (GBC).
The BSSN, which provided drop-in tutoring in math and English as well as personal counseling sessions in its first year, was previously just for Black students in the school of social and community services.
“Other students kept asking, ‘when can we access the services?’,” said Andria Lewis-Alexander, student life and BSSN co-ordinator. She added that the opening up of the BSSN came due to popular demand.
Another reason, according to Lewis-Alexander, is that the network successfully helped fulfill the needs of Black social and community services students at GBC.
“That’s why the initiative started and now that we see that it’s working and doing well in that area, we’re expanding to Black students across the college,” she said.
The BSSN was launched following Student Characteristic surveys in 2013 and 2014 which indicated that Black students had the lowest retention rates of all racialized students in the community services programs. The surveys also showed that Black community services students had the lowest grade point averages after their first semester.
The network was built on four pillars; academic tutoring, mentoring, information and referrals and social engagement.
But Lewis-Alexander said that the BSSN’s connextion mentorship service was not provided last year due to scheduling conflicts and because the mentor to mentee ratios weren’t working.
After pausing the mentoring program, the plan is now to bring it back as the BSSN re-launches.
Lewis-Alexander said the new program is arranged so that mentors will present their experiences to a group of students and the students can decide to follow-up with the mentor by booking a one-on-one appointment.
“It’s not so much of a lecture, it’s more of an experience-based talk,” said Masini McDermott, BSSN team lead. “I think that’s what students are craving.”
Mentors must be Black-identified, and preferably employed at GBC.
The BSSN is currently based in the student life office at St. James and finding a decent-sized home base for students continues to be an issue.
“A lot of times students are like, ‘Oh, we heard about you, but we don’t know where to find you,’ ” said McDermott.
McDermott explained that the re-launch event, which is happening on Oct. 12, is meant to remind stakeholders at the college that the BSSN needs investment and that students need the services.
BSSN’s launch takes place on Oct. 12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the career centre at St. James campus.