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Success coach helps boost enrollment at Virginia Western Community College

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Frank Tyree, the Community College Access Program (CCAP) success coach at Virginia Western Community College, spends a lot of time on the phone with his students.

Tyree oversees every student that enters the program from Roanoke city — 139 in total. Most of them he meets while they’re still in high school.

“I meet with students so they can see this face,” Tyree said. “So they can see who I am and learn to trust me.”

Andrik Mendez, a Virginia Western student in his second semester, joined the program after calling Tyree directly. He’s since been getting regular calls and check ins from Tyree

“I’m always on the phone with him,” Mendez said. “He calls to give me updates, and just to check in to see how I’m doing.”

Since 2015, enrollment in the CCAP program has grown by 14 percent, with most of that growth happening after the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were relaxed last year. It’s an increase that Amanda Mansfield, the director of the foundation overseeing the CCAP program at Virginia Western, attributes in no small part to Tyree, and his willingness to reach out to students.

“He’s made a huge impact already,” Mansfield said. “We’ve had this program for a while, but Frank has really turned it around.”

Mendez said that Tyree’s guidance has guided him through his time at Virginia Western, and helped him prepare for his current goal of being accepted at the University of Virginia.

“He’s helped me know stuff I wouldn’t have known otherwise,” Mendez said. “He gives advice on how to be a better student, and how to apply for scholarships.”

The CCAP program allows Roanoke Valley students who lack sufficient financial aid to attend Virginia Western. The only requirements to qualify for the program are that a student live in the school’s service area, and graduate high school with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 in Roanoke City, and 2.5 in the rest of the service area.

Once in the program, students are expected to complete at least four hours of community service in the area where they reside. The service activity is flexible, and while the school maintains a list of partner service organizations, students are encouraged to make suggestions if they have organizations they’re particularly passionate about.

“The program gives the students a chance to give back to the communities that have invested in them,” Mansfield said.

Mendez said that the program, and Tyree’s guidance, have helped him to develop a sincere love for community service. He began working in the kitchen at Rescue Mission of Roanoke after some of his friends, who were also in the CCAP program, convinced him to join them.

“I hadn’t done it before,” Mendez said. “I never really had interest, but now I feel good about it, and it gives me a way to say thank you to my community.”

A challenge that has faced the CCAP program — especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — has been student retention. Retention has increased slightly since pandemic restrictions were relaxed, and Mansfield hopes that the work Tyree has put in building a relationship with students will boost retention in coming years.

To that end, Tyree stays in contact with every student, checking in regularly, regardless of how the student is doing.

“We have different periods where students get reports on their progress, and whether it’s good or bad, I’m calling to encourage them,” Tyree said. “When it’s exam time, I call every student to wish them luck.”

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