LEAP offers head start

By By Edgar Zuniga Jr.

By Edgar Zuniga Jr.

High school seniors often stress for months deciding which colleges to apply to, what major to choose and how to become involved in campus life. However, the LEAP program helps to guide them through the process.

“LEAP is a really successful program, helping students navigate through their first year,” said Carolan Ownby, service learning LEAP professor. “We know from studies that if freshmen students can make it through the first weeks, they have more of a chance of succeeding.”

LEAP is a year-long program where students stay in the same group and are taught by the same professor. In doing so, students build community with their peers and learn how to interact with future professors.

The first LEAP social event took place earlier this month. More than 200 students attended the opening picnic at the Sill Center. LEAP will hold a food drive next month with the Crossroads Urban Center.

The program began as an explorations course, now titled Thematics LEAP, but currently offers about half a dozen programs ranging from fine arts to health sciences. Students can focus on their chosen field of study with a professor who has expertise in that area. Most programs last for one year, but some science-related programs last for two years.

“LEAP is about giving students an anchor — giving them everything they need in order to be successful,” Ownby said.

Many former LEAP students decide to become peer advisers themselves. “I just thought it was a really good program. I met a lot of my good friends through the group and so I wanted to be a peer adviser,” said Cameron Hansen, peer adviser for the business LEAP program. In this paid role, peer advisers help freshmen succeed academically and socially during the transition to college. They organize study groups and assist professors with in-class discussions.

“LEAP is effective in providing community for students and networking with the university system,” said Marko Mijic, a former LEAP student and peer adviser.

Peer advisers also prepare extracurricular activities and are available to students outside of class.

“We know LEAP works,” said Carolyn Bliss, LEAP Director, in a written statement on the program’s website. “Our students are significantly more likely than non-LEAP students to come back for their sophomore year, to graduate on time and to be satisfied that their university experience has broadened their knowledge and understanding of others.”

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