Jehiel Exil, a freshman from Florida, tried out a couple of other universities before deciding to make the trip north to Union College. Months before he arrived on campus, Exil and his family had an inside source for all their questions.

Union’s newly expanded Student Success Center is now pairing every incoming freshman with a dedicated life coach for their first year to help answer questions, identify barriers to success, and work through them. Exil’s life coach, Angela Washington, was in touch with the family, helping them prepare for a successful first year at Union College. 

“She was helpful even before I got to Nebraska,” said Exil. Washington communicated with the whole family, answering questions, easing their concerns, and talking through the logistics of his first year. 

When Exil arrived on campus in August, Washington was one of the first people they spoke to. She was a familiar voice, and a trusted source of help. 

The Student Success Center has five full-time life coaches this year, thanks to a $2.1 million grant awarded to Union’s Student Success initiative last fall. The certified coaches will help students transition successfully into college life, whatever that entails. 

“It is a big stress reliever knowing that there is somebody you can go to for any advice. At other colleges, it’s just you, trying to figure out the best solution. It makes it a lot easier not having a bunch of baggage to carry around while you are trying to go to school,” said Exil. 

The coaching partnership is already paying off. “He has done a great job of discovering strategies and action steps, and then holds himself accountable because he wants to show me, ‘I did it!’” said Washington. “I’m his person. He knows I’m going to hold him accountable, but also hold him in grace. He knows that anything I challenge him on is coming from the desire to see him succeed.”

Life coaching includes strategies for logistical issues, academic support, social interaction, and so much more. 

“Academically, she has given me all the tools I need to succeed,” said Exil. “We are working on a time management schedule too, especially since I’m trying out for the basketball team.”

Washington recently asked Exil about the differences at Union, versus the public universities he attended in years past. His answer: “You know what Miss A? I feel like everyone here wants me to succeed! It’s not like I’m just one out of 50 students in their class. I am ONE! I feel valued here.”

“That really spoke to me,” said Washington. “That reassured me that we are doing exactly what our mission is here at Union College.”