LDS Business College was recently recognized in University Business magazine’s winter Models of Efficiency national recognition program. Among the reasons for it’s recognition is its intervention program for at-risk students, which helps struggling students get back on their feet.
The at-risk intervention program at LDSBC is aligned with the college’s mission statement: “LDS Business College provides a distinctive educational experience rooted in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We work together to cultivate a nurturing environment, teach practical skills, and develop confident and skillful learners. We enlighten minds, elevate hope, and ennoble souls to strengthen individuals, families, communities, and the Lord’s Church.”
Adrian Juchau, director of student support, said a couple of years ago, when the college was concerned about retention, he realized that they were working with a lot of at-risk students. At-risk students are usually those who have been put on academic probation, and could be struggling with learning disabilities or other mental disorders, family issues, health problems or experiencing social and emotional issues.
Following the pattern of the Church, Brother Juchau decided to turn to missionaries. More specifically, service missionaries.
Now, he says the ninth floor— which houses the student development center — of the college that faces the Salt Lake Temple is like home for these students, and the missionaries are like family.
Each at-risk student is matched with a service missionary or volunteer. The student then meets with them to develop a plan to get their grades up and, overall, improve their lives. The missionaries act as mentors as they continue to meet with the students periodically throughout the semester, usually weekly.
“Serving all at-risk students became one of our focus projects last year,” said Kathy Skene, LDSBC learning assistance lab director. “It seemed overwhelming in the beginning to meet with and care for these students on a weekly basis and would not have been possible without the help of service missionaries who devote 6-20 hours a week working with them individually to organize their time, homework and resources and assist them in understanding who they really are and what they are capable of accomplishing.”
Service missionaries aren’t the only ones who can help. Volunteers can also act as mentors. Brother Juchau said that the Church asks service missionaries to contribute approximately eight hours a week or more.
“You do not have to be set apart to come here and help, you can volunteer,” he said. “And essentially anything less than eight hours is a volunteer.”
Service missionaries and volunteers mentoring at-risk students at LDSBC are more like life coaches, said D. Louise Brown, director of public affairs. There are no educational requirements to being service missionaries or volunteers, besides needing to be able to read for training purposes.
“They have to have love for these [students] and want to be able to help,” Brother Juchau said.
For Elder Lee Miller and Sister Laura Miller, service missionaries in the at-risk intervention program at LDSBC and both retired school teachers, the opportunity to be such “life coaches” fulfills their desire to serve a mission and fits their needs, as they still have some responsibilities at home.
“We thoroughly enjoy coming up here and being with the students,” Sister Miller said. “Our kids aren’t so far out of the home that we can’t remember what it was like raising children. It just gives it that added incentive to want to help students do better.”
And for John Foster, a program volunteer and former service missionary, seeing the smiles on the students’ faces when they succeed means everything, he said.
“Now to see the smiles on the students as they progress, as they do better, is enough payment right there, to know that they have really been able to achieve,“ Brother Foster said. ”Some of them don’t even think that they’re able to do that sometimes, they think it’s just impossible [and] they think, ‘I’ll never be able to pass this class,’ but through encouragement and through the help of the instructor, and so on, we get them to the point they can really smile about that class and feel like they are doing good about it. Yeah, that smile means everything.”
Brother Foster said that along with encouraging students to meet with their teachers, they often encourage them to receive tutoring, which is free and provided by the college.
Brother Foster has been assisting students at the college for seven years. He said he and his wife became service missionaries at the suggestion of someone they knew working there and served for two years. Once his wife had to leave for a job opportunity, he decided he couldn’t leave and came back as a volunteer, he said.
Serving at the college and in the program was a good fit for Sister Nanette Carlile and her husband, as she couldn’t leave the state for health reasons.
“The students are fabulous,” she said. “You know, they’ve come from all over the world. Language has a great barrier on how they react and writing papers and all is very difficult for them. And so mentoring them and getting them in the right direction has been a wonderful experience, I’ve seen them grow in leaps and bounds, and I think that’s what I love about it.”
Her testimony has also grown in leaps and bounds, she said.
“I don’t have to go to France, I don’t have to go to England, I don’t have to go to Africa to get that experience. I get it here from every student,” Sister Carlile said. “So that’s the thing that I absolutely love about it is that we don’t have to go to a foreign country to reach people, we can do it right in our own backyard, and that’s exactly why I’m excited to be here.”
Elder Miller, who has served in the program with his wife for three years, realizes that they act as someone for the students to communicate the big changes going on in their lives with.
“I think the students who want to progress and are motivated … they have someone to communicate with [about] that change that they are making for themselves,” Elder Miller said. “And when I see that happen, that gives me the drive to do this again another semester. To push myself.”
Expressing gratitude for the ability to serve in the program and at the college, Sister Miller said it is a mission of service.
“We enjoy every minute,” Sister Miller said. “It gives more to us than we could ever give back in any way. It’s been a true blessing.”
Brother Foster agreed that serving in the program has strengthened his testimony.
“When you’re in the service of your God, what else can it do? Because all of us, I think, really do feel that we are here because this is where Heavenly Father wants us to be,” Brother Foster said. “We know that we are doing a service, and we are able to touch a few lives. The more lives we touch the more testimonies grow, [knowing] that we are dealing with Heavenly Father’s children and doing all that we can to get them back to him. Get us back there too.”
Brother Juchau said the service missionaries in the program really have only one requirement — to treat the students as family.
“What do our mentor missionaries and volunteers do? They help these folks understand and fulfill their responsibilities now and hereafter and they help cultivate the royalty, even the deity, within our students,” Brother Juchau said.
The at-risk intervention program has made all the difference in the life of Jorge Oliveira, an LDSBC student from Sao Paulo, Brazil, who is graduating at the end of the current semester. He also works as an honor code counselor and academic adviser at the college.
He said the program has helped him with more than just his schooling.
He said he suffers from depression. Otherwise, he is a very bright student, but when he doesn’t have his depression under control it gets in the way of his education.
He said he would experience an up-and-down trend of doing really great one semester and then really poorly. He lived like that until it happened so many times that his bosses, teachers, friends and coworkers took notice. He said once he admitted to having depression, they began helping him in specific ways, such as accommodating him in classes and encouraging professional treatment, which he has received, he said.
He said he is no longer depressed, and considers the service missionaries in the at-risk intervention program a main key in his happiness.
He remembers the first missionary he met with and that she also had depression, which helped them relate to each other. Jorge thinks it is great that the missionaries have “almost a parent love” for the students and that it helps, he said.
“They would encourage me on a weekly basis and celebrate my successes with me,” he said.
Jorge said he has never had a bad semester when he has been seeing the missionaries and that he can tell — just by talking with them — that they are interested in his eternal welfare.
Along with their genuine love, helping him “create a plan of attack” has been important and beneficial in helping him get on track.
“The return and report principle is very, very true,” Jorge said.
The habits and things he has learned while in the program are things he wants to be able to continue in his life, even after graduation. He said he is grateful beyond words for the missionaries.
Jorge said he has been able to feel the power of the Atonement while in the program because he can’t do it by himself.
“My life story has shown that I have tried by myself,” he said. “This time, when they started working with me, I put in my mind and said, ‘I’m going to do this with the Lord. I’m going to ask His help.’ And it has made all the difference.”
He said he can now sit down, do his homework and feel joy.
“My very nature has changed. … And it’s His promise that our nature will change if we are willing to pay the price, right? It’s not overnight … but it’s getting to a point that I don’t think about depression anymore. I just want to wake up and do school. I want to do everything, and I know it is because of the Lord, the Atonement, not because of I’m not doing this by myself.”