Lehman’s SEEK Program Nominated for Prestigious Award

September 22, 2015 3:32 am Counseling Center, Counseling, Leadership, Literacy, and Special Education Dept, SEEK, Student Affairs

The incoming students at SEEK.

Lehman College’s SEEK program is among the top 5 finalists for the nationally prestigious ¡Excelencia! in Education’s 2015 Examples of Excelencia Award, which recognizes programs dedicated to Latino success in higher education. Lehman’s program was selected out of over 250 nominees from programs in 30 states, including Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

“We are honored to be among this elite group,” says Dr. Annette Hernández, Director of Lehman’s Percy Ellis Sutton SEEK program. “It’s a recognition of the dedicated work of our staff and counselors and the achievements of SEEK students.

SEEK, which stands for Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge, is celebrating 50 years at The City University of New York. It was started as a higher education opportunity program at the senior colleges to provide access and academic support for students from economically and academically disadvantaged backgrounds.

At Lehman, the SEEK program provides its students specialized advisement and counseling, tutoring, supplemental instruction, and financial assistance. Hernandez, who has been at the helm for 12 years, can speak to the program’s evolution through the years and its impact on student performance and long-term outcomes.

“When the students first arrive, they don’t have a realistic idea of what it entails to be good students, to be successful college students, so we begin the transformation process immediately,” she explains. By transformation Hernández means empowering the students to take charge of their education, instilling in them a need to perform at their best academically, and to be fully engaged in their college education in and out of the classroom.

In the past several years, Hernandez has worked to refine the program’s student success support strategies by emphasizing the collaborative relationship between students and counselors, encouraging excellent academic performance, providing prep workshops for those interested in majoring in the sciences, encouraging engagement in the social and political life of the campus, and emphasizing the importance of internships for SEEK students. The cumulative result of all this activity is that Lehman’s SEEK program has seen a significant uptick in retention, performance and graduation rates.

Latoya Speller who graduated this spring with a degree in social work is one of the program’s success stories. “It was a phenomenal program. From my counselor who made sure that I was on track to the stipend I received for books, my experience with the SEEK program was instrumental in my success,” she said.

“I applaud Annette and her team for the work that they do at SEEK,” says Reine T. Sarmiento, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Associate Provost. “It is the kind of programming and at this level of engagement that we need in order to close the educational attainment gap and provide our students with a pathway out of poverty.”