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SEL is up for the challenge

September 8, 2017
By Whitney Helm

SEL went zip lining as a team-building exerciseStudents in the SEL program challenged themselves by ziplining this summer.

Challenge yourself.

That’s what the Student Excellence and Leadership (SEL) program teaches its students to do.

A U.S. Department of Education Student Support Services TRIO Program focused on first-generation, low-income, and students with disabilities, the four-year program begins with a two-week Summer Institute bridge program and ends when students walk across the Commencement stage.

“We place a major emphasis on students knowing their strengths,” says Marijuana Sawyer, director of the program. When many people hear about programs such as these, they think ‘Oh, these students need all this help, but these students wouldn’t have been accepted to a college of this caliber if they didn’t deserve to be here or have what it takes to remain.”

During the two-week Summer Institute in August, students are paired with peer mentors in the SEL program, take academic courses including Calculus, Research Fundamentals, Foundations in Personal Finance, a writing intensive Personal Narrative course and tackle obstacle courses like the Warrior Dash and connect with their newfound home in Beloit.

“I always tell people that I don’t think I would have stayed in college without the support that I got from Maria Scarpaci, assistant director of SEL and other SEL staff,” says Parker Blunt’20.

First-time peer mentors Emily Anaya’19 and Evelyn Roman’19, both say the bi-weekly check- ins during the academic year and staff support helped them succeed at Beloit.

“The summer program showed me what college had to offer,” says Galen Alaks’21. “I would have been overwhelmed if I just showed up on campus move-in day.”

In addition to the summer programming, SEL offers students academic advising, career counseling, tutoring, FAFSA assistance, and service learning opportunities throughout their four-year stay at the college as well as a resource library full of computers, study areas, calculators and other materials they may need.

”Whenever I kind of lose hope in my classes, SEL has an event and I’m reminded why I’m here. I have a lot of things working against me saying ‘You can’t do this, you’re going to fail.’ It’s nice to have SEL say, ‘You can do this. This isn’t a sales pitch or just positivity hogwash, it’s something you can plausibly do,’” says Adrian Tomby’20.