March Member Feature: Kent State University at Stark Connect2Complete

Two Peer Advocates at KSU Stark, Caya Smarr (Left) and Demi Edwards (right) promote Connect2Complete at a Student Resource Fair.

Hi! I’m Rylie Woods, the AmeriCorps VISTA Connect2Complete Coordinator at Kent State University at Stark in North Canton, Ohio. I am from Massillon, Ohio and I also attended Kent State University at Stark as a student and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology with a minor in interpersonal communication. I love this campus and I am so excited to be here during my service year as a VISTA.

As the Connect2Complete Coordinator, I work with a team of Peer Advocates as they assist first-generation, low income students with connecting to resources on campus. When I was an undergraduate student, I was also a Peer Advocate, and that is how I became involved with Connect2Complete. One of the reasons I wanted to be a Peer Advocate was because I am also a first-generation college student, and I know how difficult it can be to adjust to college, so I wanted to be there for other students to answer their questions and connect them to our campus resources and our campus community. Another reason I wanted to be a Peer Advocate was to gain experience working with helping others and building my communication skills because I originally wanted to become a clinical mental health counselor. However, becoming a Peer Advocate completely changed my career path; I realized I truly enjoyed working with students, and as a result I now want to pursue a career in higher education.  When I realized how passionate I was about the program and noticed my growing interest in higher education, I decided to apply to be the AmeriCorps VISTA so I could continue to build the program in its last year and hopefully ensure its institutionalization.

While I assist with program coordination, the true work of Connect2Complete lies in the hands of our fantastic Peer Advocates, and we have 10 in the program this semester. One way that Peer Advocates work to help students is by being placed in an introductory or developmental course and supporting the students within that course with questions and concerns they may have. The Peer Advocates are in 13 courses this semester, helping around 214 students. Another way that Peer Advocates assist students on campus is by holding office hours in which students can visit them to learn more about campus resources, and to participate in academic coaching sessions on topics such as time management and study skills. We also operate Flash’s Professional Closet, which provides professional attire for job interviews, internships, and more to students in need. This semester, we are also doing a College Supplies Drive for students on our campus in need of school supplies.

I know the Connect2Complete program is in good hands here at Kent State University at Stark. There are many faculty and staff members that support and value this program because they see how it helps students get connected to the campus. I know this program will continue on once my service year is over, whether that is through a current staff member, a new staff member, or even an intern. I am confident that the program will continue to help students and be an important resource on our campus.

Blog written by Rylie Woods, edited by Brenna Limbrick

For more information on the Connect2Complete program, contact OCC at 740-587-8568.