AHANA Office Looks Ahead

AHANA Office Looks Ahead

Renovations completed, office now aims to renew its mission

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

For the Office of AHANA Student Programs, the fall of 2002 is a season of rededication.

AHANA Student Programs Director Donald Brown and Associate Director Ines Maturana (second from left) with academic counselors Leesa Mercedes (left) and Plamyenne Penka. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
On Oct. 9, the office will officially mark the opening of its newly renovated headquarters at Thea Bowman House on College Road. That event also will include the formal presentation of the office's new mission statement, which AHANA Student Programs Director Donald Brown says emphasizes outreach to all AHANA students.

What has not changed, according to Brown, is the office's continued success in helping to support and enhance AHANA students' experience at Boston College, as reflected in the performance of its six-week pre-college enrichment program Options Through Education.

"While the traditional target group of the office are students who enter through OTE," said Brown, "we wanted to make clear through the mission statement that our vision is to enable all AHANA students to realize their dreams, fulfill their potential and become leaders."

With some recent and upcoming staff changes that are also expected to further strengthen the office's programs and resources, Brown and his colleagues look forward to a year of renewal.

"We're constantly evaluating what we do, so we can meet the changing needs and wishes of the students we serve," said Brown. "We're confident that the improvements we've made to our facilities, and the reorganization of some tasks and responsibilities, will enable us to continue this important service."

The summer's renovation - which necessitated a temporary relocation of the AHANA office to McElroy Commons - added two new offices and another conference room to Bowman House, said Brown. The additional office space is planned as a first step in bringing "more of a continual, full-time presence" to the office staff, Brown said, instead of relying on graduate assistants.

Brown cited the appointment this past summer of Associate Director Ines Maturana as an important component in the reorganization. Among other tasks, Maturana will coordinate the office's Benjamin Mays Mentoring Program, which pairs AHANA students with BC faculty, administrators and staff.

"With Ines, we now have a full-time administrator overseeing the Mays Program, which in its 11 years has become a very popular, and quite valuable, means of offering students encouragement and support for their years at BC," said Brown, who expects to enlist as many as 100 mentors by the end of the academic year to work with approximately 150 to 160 students."

Brown said the AHANA office will sharpen the focus on service this year, in the belief that "to whom much is given, much is required." The office has forged partnerships with the Commonwealth Tenants Association and, more recently, the West End Boys and Girls Club; BC students have corresponded with children belonging to the club and hosted them at a campus barbecue.

AHANA Student Programs administrators were heartened by another set of positive results for OTE, which each year introduces some 40 educationally and financially disadvantaged AHANA students to the academic and social aspects of college. The program's retention and graduation rate during the past six years is almost 91 percent, 93 percent for the past five and an unprecedented 95 percent for students who have enrolled during the previous four years.

"We've crossed the threshold," said Brown of the latter statistic.

Brown noted that current data shows the current overall six-year graduation rate for all students in higher education is 56 percent. The rate is 66 percent for students of Asian descent, 59 percent for white students, 48 percent for Hispanic students and 37 percent for African Americans and Native Americans.

Nor have the office's achievements gone unnoticed outside BC, adds Brown, who was invited to pen an essay for a forthcoming volume, Our Stories: The Experience of Black Professionals at Predominantly White Institutions, and published an article on AHANA's success in Connection: The Journal of the New England Board of Higher Education.

But perhaps the best, and most meaningful, testimony to the program's success comes from its former participants, Brown says. "During OTE this past summer, the students heard from a graduate who is now working on his master's degree in marketing. That's one of the most important things for the students: They hear from those who have come before, and gone on to finish college and make a career, and a life, for themselves.

"Our success comes in large measure as a result of having a highly committed staff. So, the hope is that through our various initiatives Bowman House will always be a constant source of assistance, information, friendship and direction. With the additional space, the conference areas will be available for student groups, so now, even when the day is over, the house will still be a locus of activity."


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