AACC offers a certification program to train faculty and staff as life coaches for students.
Life coaches counsel their clients on how to improve their personal happiness by changing their lifestyles. Education professor and certified life coach Jen Lara, who runs the coaching program at the college, started it in fall 2016.
Lara said she started a program to certify coaches here because a lot of her colleagues were going off campus for training because “we thought the skills really worked well with teaching and working with AACC students.”
The nearly 75 AACC-trained coaches on campus started by coaching each other. But as the program expanded, the coaches took on students for coaching.
“During our coaching training, we frequently were coaching each other and the experience was life changing,” said biology professor Julie Takacs, who came up with the idea to start offering coaching to students in 2017.
“It felt like a natural next step to offer coaching to students, since students are the reason we are all here. I certainly felt I could have benefited from having a coach while I was a student. We hope that coaching will increase student success by helping students help themselves find their purpose or values, overcome a fear and increase confidence.”
Trained faculty coaches initially could coach only students who were members of the Student Achievement and Success Program, or SASP. But this year the program added students in education, psychology, honors, entrepreneurship and criminology. Students in the Disability Support Services program on campus can also receive life coaching.
So far, college-trained faculty have coached at least 100 students.
To become certified, coaches must complete 70 hours of training, practice their skills for 100 hours, attend mentoring for 10 hours and record themselves coaching.
After coaches send the recordings, along with their transcripts, to the International Coach Federation for review, they must take a three-hour multiple choice exam to become an associate certified, or Level 1, life coach.
“We’re all humans, we’re curious and we like to thrive and grow,” Lara said. “It’s a full set of skills that can support any human, and the nice thing about offering it as a training is that we can train anyone to be a coach and they get to take those skills anywhere they go.”
“[Life coaching] promotes such great strategies for overcoming obstacles while being growth-minded,” second-year elementary education student Fredrica Fiorino, who receives life coaching, said. “I have learned such great skills and strategies to combat my personal struggles in life and through that, I have learned ways to help students that I work with now, and will work with in the future.
“Life coaching has been an amazing tool to help me really focus up on the future,” third-year elementary education student Carl Ratliff, who receives coaching, said. “My outlook on my future and myself as a whole has been changed for the good by addressing these issues face to face.”
The service is free for students. The coaches are volunteers.
This semester for the first time, the college is offering coach training to K-12 teachers in five school districts throughout the state. Lara said she hopes to eventually expand to every district.