Involvement is key to success

By Linda Liang

The NIU Minority Student Assistance Program encourages students to become involved with the belief that students who are involved are more successful.

The program is separated into a group of nine peer counselors to help solve the problems of the 45 students signed up to receive assistance, said Minority Program Coordinator Jerry Wright.

Students are encouraged to attend weekly support group meetings and meet with their minority peer counselor twice a month.

“Students don’t realize how much the program can help them,” Wright said. Wanda Nelson, a former NIU employee, started the program, which seeks to discover what students need from support groups, Wright said. The program started last August and discusses interacting topics concerning students, he said.

The counseling program is based on voluntary work and requires listening abilities, asking questions, guiding conversations, making suggestions, offering approaches to problem solving, presenting information, giving examples, encouraging motivation, providing feedback and predicting consequential actions, according to a MSAP document.

Peer counselors also must be ready to suggest referral sources such as tutoring, personal counseling, career guidance, financial aid information and academic advising, the document states.

Activities Coordinator Tracey Bumpas plans programs to help minority students get involved. Bumpas said she has learned a lot about helping students with financial aid and job placement through the program.

“The minority counseling program is a great program that hopes to support the needs of all black students on campus in any way possible,” Bumpas said. She said the drop-out rate for black students is high because they feel alienated and isolated at NIU. The program tries to give them a feeling of home.

Bumpas said she wishes students could get more involved at NIU and make NIU a “home away from home. We make them feel so at ease,…they have no positive image,” she said. Hours for personal counseling are 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays in the Swen Parson Counseling and Student Development Office, Room 220.

Sonja Branyon, a freshman communications major, said she joined the program last August and received tutoring in chemistry and assistance on schedule completion. “I think it’s a really good program and they should keep it up,” she said.