GCC Peer Success Coaches: Cheering on and supporting your own is key to success

Friday, March 4, 2022
Student Success Coaches

As if college wasn’t challenging enough – balancing course work, family, friends and a job – add in a global pandemic to the mix. The effects of the upheaval on college students are ongoing and wide-reaching. But GCC is prepared to tackle those college struggles with peer success coaches to help build stronger relationships with the students, offer critical services, and ensure their student experience is positive.

Why? Because overall, research shows that students who have personalized experiences with targeted coaching are statistically more likely to persist to completion, get higher GPAs, earn more credit hours, and transfer to a university at a higher rate.

“The Peer Success coach program is a 3-pillar retention program designed to support students by connecting to engage, referring to retain, and coaching to achieve,” said Alyssa McKenney, EXCEL Program Coordinator. “The overarching goal is to increase the students’ use of critical resources, build stronger relationships within their Fields of Interest and create a positive impact on the student experience.”


This isn’t GCC’s first successful student-centered program. The new Peer Success Coach Program is the result of gathering all the “best practices” the college saw from the EXCEL program, a grant-funded student success initiative offered at GCC since 2015.

Through the data and positive outcomes, the college had been seeing since 2015, was born the idea to continue the program with slight changes. Dean of Student Life, Dr. Genesis Toole, EXCEL program Coordinator, Alyssa McKenney and Director of Academic Advisement, Christine Neill, developed a vision of integrated student support for the area they knew to be the most challenging for students: Entry and connection to the college. Their vision addresses the notion that if students don't feel connected and confident soon upon starting college, they may lose their motivation and drop out.

“This program is important for students who have entered college during the global pandemic and future cohorts of students who will enter the institution when completion and retention rates are lower than ever before,” said McKenney. “Social isolation, reduced use of critical resources, and low engagement are difficult to overcome without Peer Support. We know from the EXCEL retention and completion data over the last 5 years, that Peer Support, Case Management and frequent interactions with staff, other students and program managers are critical components of student success.”

The services provided by Peer Success Coaches include proactive outreach to students identified as high-risk or in need of additional support by faculty, staff or self-referral. Peer Success Coaches provide 1-on-1 appointments to answer general questions, set goals for success, create action plans, improve time-management skills, and provide referrals to essential resources provided by our Campus Community. 

And, as recent graduates or current students, Peer Success Coaches are familiar with the GCC campus culture, opportunities, resources, departments, clubs, programs and academic support spaces.

Not on campus? Not to worry. The Success Coaches are accessible via chat Monday-Friday from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm to answer general questions and connect students with the appropriate departments on campus.

Best of all, the program is for everyone.

“Another goal of the program was to remove any perceived barriers to coaching and guarantee that the service is accessible to all students regardless of their program, age, ethnicity, gender, admissions status or any further defining attribute,” said McKenney. “There are no restrictions or applications needed. A student may self-refer or be referred by a staff or faculty member directly from our Peer Success Coach website.

We carefully selected an incredibly diverse group of students, all of who met the minimum requirement of coaching others: the strong desire to give back to their campus community and contribute to the success of their fellow students in a meaningful way. All Success Coaches are trained and mentored by 5-year veteran EXCEL Lead Peer Mentors, Abreanna Autote and Cristian Loera, GCC Alumni and recent graduates of ASU Barrett, the Honors College.”

We strongly believe that every positive interaction a student shares with a coach that leads to the development and achievement of a goal or successful referral to the appropriate support will help our students overcome the achievement barriers impacting our persistence and completion rates at GCC.”