Cougs Rise students participate in a leadership development and experiential learning trip in Washington, D.C., in 2018. Photo by Ray Acuña-Luna
A collaborative effort between the Carson Center for Student Success and Cougs Rise, a WSU college preparedness program housed in the Office of Academic Engagement, will boost first-generation, low-income high school students’ chances at earning a college degree.
Now in its second year, Cougs Rise, led by director Ray Acuña-Luna, offers 180 low-income and first-generation students from five Washington high schools including Bremerton, Hudson Bay (Vancouver), Rogers (Spokane), University (Spokane Valley), and Wenatchee access to college-prep programming and mentoring.
Up to 120 Cougs Rise students who decide to enroll at WSU participate in a summer bridge program in Pullman. Students live on campus for about six weeks. They are assigned a mentor, take up to eight credits, develop a sense of community, and engage in highly impactful experiences such as undergraduate research and other service and experiential learning opportunities.
The summer bridge program provides a direct pipeline to the Carson EDGE program, a Carson College student success initiative that seeks to significantly improve the retention, academic standing, graduation, and placement rates of underrepresented students within the Carson College of Business.
“The Cougs Rise curriculum directly connects with Carson EDGE in its focus on peer mentors, academic self-concept, and social networking,” says Stacey Smith‑Colon, Carson EDGE advisor. “It’s a natural partnership.”
Carson EDGE students who successfully complete the Cougs Rise summer bridge program receive a first-year award of $2,000 and a $3,000 per year renewable scholarship contingent upon the following criteria:
- successful completion of the 2019–2020 Carson EDGE program
- 2.6 cumulative GPA
- continuing academic interest or certified major in business
- full-time student status on the Pullman campus
Soft Handoff Supports Earlier Success
“The Next Carson Coug student success initiative has students certifying a full year earlier in their program than ever before,” says Smith-Colon. “With the support of Cougs Rise and Carson EDGE, first-generation, low-income students get the soft handoff they need to successfully navigate the University system prior to starting their freshman year and thus will be better prepared to certify in their sophomore year.”
Acuña-Luna says he aims to identify more Cougs Rise students earlier on to provide them with critical tools for success. “The Cougs Rise motto is ‘engage, thrive, and rise,’” he says. “The most exciting thing is connecting students with resources they wouldn’t otherwise have access to and seeing them succeed.”