UCO support group reaches out to nontraditional students

UCO support group reaches out to nontraditional students

The University of Central Oklahoma’s Center for Counseling and Well Being hosted a support group for nontraditional students on campus. The group is one of many the support groups and meetings the counseling center has put on. (Photo provided by Pixabay.)

Nontraditional students at the University of Central Oklahoma now have the opportunity to attend a support group created as a joint effort by the UCO Center for Counseling and Well Being and Student Support Services.

Jade Bennight, a counselor for the UCO Student Counseling Center said most college students worry about homework, project deadlines and making good grades, but nontraditional students usually have a lot more to stress about, such as children or juggling multiple jobs.

Bennight said the support group initially was designed for specific nontraditional students involved in Student Support Services’ STRIVE program, but after much success the group now is open to all nontraditional students at UCO.

“This specific group isn’t super deep— it’s more skill-based,” Bennight said. “We talk about how to manage professors, how to make tutoring appointments and things like that.”

Bennight said it’s important for nontraditional students to see familiar faces across campus since they often lack opportunities to connect with other students. The average student can meet new people through campus clubs or events, but nontraditional students often have obligations other than school that keep them from making connections.

“Nontraditional students have a lot of common challenges when it comes to the classroom setting,” Bennight said, “They sometimes feel isolated or out of place in the classroom with all these younger students.”

“We want them to have a place where they can connect with other people who live off-campus, have their own families and have full-time jobs,” Bennight said, “There’s a lot of building rapport and supporting each other through their own experiences.”

In addition to help in the classroom, the group also offers techniques and strategies for students to maintain stress outside of school. The sessions typically begin with students sharing a good and bad thing currently happening in their lives so the group can brainstorm solutions together.

“We do some coping skills so students will have tools to apply when they’re having challenges in their life,” Bennight said, “We talk about stress, how to recognize it and how to not stow it away but instead address it by noticing how it affects us physically.”

Nontraditional students often fail to notice the impact of stress on the body, Bennight said. The group aims to help students recognize these symptoms so they can intervene early and avoid mental breakdowns.

Bennight said the group also functions as an exchange of resources for group members with more challenging needs. During a recent group meeting, she said, attendees collaborated to help a few students without transportation figure out the best way to navigate the local bus system.

“Everyone has their own challenges going on, so we offer a lot of community resources — referrals to food pantries, off-campus counseling services and things like that,” Bennight said, “A big piece of our group is resource sharing.”

Nontraditional students interested in attending the support group can find more information by calling the UCO Center for Counseling and Well-Being at 405-974-2215.

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