Through an individualized, holistic, and multi-year commitment, College Bound empowers promising students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve bachelor’s degrees and fulfilling careers. College Bound became aware that for many students, their desire to complete their bachelor’s degree could be derailed by loss, depression, anxiety, or other traumas. Tilles’ generous contribution of $80,000 allowed College Bound to extend the reach of their Wellness Program to address those issues.

235 students, of which 86% were African American, 5% were White, 5% were Multiracial, 3% were Hispanic, and 1% were Asian, received wellness support. 89% of the students qualify for free and reduced price lunch, an indicator of poverty—and 88% are first-generation college students.

Surprisingly, the greater availability of wellness services increased demand from students. College Bound also came to realize that a wellness assessment of incoming students needed to be done right away so that issues could be addressed as early as possible. Finally, the therapists who deliver the Social Emotional Learning programs to students received additional training. This increased their effectiveness which in turn increased students comfort with wellness services. This also led to higher demand. In response, College Bound increased staff capacity, including hiring a new team member. 

The expansion of the Wellness Program exposed the true depth of need amongst College Bound’s target demographic and gave them an opportunity to better train staff and AmeriCorps volunteers in dealing with wellness issues as they arise. Tilles’ support increased their capacity and showed them how deep the need actually goes. 

College Bound’s focus is on supporting students as they achieve their bachelor’s degree, do so with a minimum of debt, and land their first job within their desired career path. Any of these goals can suffer due to a wellness barrier. A death in the family, drug/alcohol use, or depression/anxiety can derail a student from their college path, delay their graduation, which can increase their college costs and become yet another barrier to gainful employment.

The real success of the Wellness Program is found in the individual results that the students achieve. Kara requested wellness support shortly after the death of her brother. She had just entered her sophomore year at the University of Missouri St. Louis and was struggling to maintain her grades. Without adequate support, she quickly spiraled. The grief she experienced left her unable to focus on her academics and resulted in her dropping out of school. Over the next ten months, Kara worked alongside a College Bound therapist, at first stabilizing her well-being and later working on the traumatic loss of her brother. Through her efforts and the support of College Bound, Kara was able to overcome the trauma she experienced, and she successfully re-enrolled at a local university to finish her degree. The program will continue into the future; however, it has been rebranded as “Mental Health Services” to be more transparent about its function.

For more about College Board, please visit https://www.collegeboundstl.org/