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Two graduates attribute success to Student Support Services

by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu - May 19, 2008

The Advance is publishing short profiles of some of this year’s graduating students. Those featured were selected from among those recommended by each school and college.

Related articles:
Class of '08 Outstanding Students (May 19 issue)
Class of '08 Outstanding Students (May 5 issue)
Class of '08 Outstanding Students (April 28 issue)
Class of '08 Outstanding Students (April 21 issue)
University Scholars create projects beyond typical plan of study

Jeffrey Ambroise almost stayed back a year in elementary school. Growing up in a household speaking mostly Haitian Creole, he struggled to keep up with classes in English. Now he’s graduating from UConn with a degree in psychology and will go to graduate school in the fall.

Jeffrey Ambroise, of the SSS program, outside the CUE Building.
Jeffrey Ambroise, of the SSS program, outside the CUE Building.
Photo by Frank Dahlmeyer

Ambroise, a first-generation college student, grew up in public housing in Stamford. The oldest son in his family, he resolved to set a good example for his younger siblings and, as he says, “create a future.”

He studied hard, brought up his grades, and set his heart on attending a “big-time” college. When the time came, he applied only to UConn.

Ambroise spent his first six weeks on the Storrs campus attending a seven-credit summer program through Student Support Services (SSS), and has been part of SSS ever since.

Carlton Jones of Stamford had hoped to attend Central Connecticut State University. But when the admissions tour he planned to take was full, he took a tour of UConn instead.

He “fell in love with the campus,” he says, and wrote his application essay the same week. The letter of admission to the University included a recommendation that he join the SSS program.

SSS, part of UConn’s Center for Academic Programs, helps low-income and first-generation students adjust to college life, beginning the summer before freshman year and continuing until graduation. Services offered include academic advising, peer tutoring, financial aid advice, short-term loans for books or other emergencies, and career counseling.

Jones and Ambroise, who each have a GPA of about a 3.0, say SSS not only helped them succeed academically, it provided community within the UConn community and helped them identify their career paths.

“It’s a good way to meet a lot of people,” says Jones. “You get to know about 100 people by being part of SSS.

“If not for SSS,” he adds, “I wouldn’t be at UConn, I wouldn’t have become a peer advisor, and I wouldn’t have found my career path.”

Through SSS, in his freshman year he was paired with a peer advisor who was president of SUBOG at the time. Jones also became active with the organization. After a couple of years assisting with SUBOG activities, Jones was selected as SUBOG president for his senior year. A sociology major, he plans to pursue a career in student affairs, starting with a master’s program at Central.

Carlton Jones, graduate of the SSS program and President of SUBOG, outside of the Student Union.
Carlton Jones, graduate of the SSS program and President of SUBOG, outside of the Student Union.
Photo by Frank Dahlmeyer

“SUBOG has been a great experience,” he says. “It has honed my leadership skills.”

Two summers ago, Jones and Ambroise took part in a Study Abroad program in Liverpool, England, organized through SSS.

The three-week program focuses on the history of black settlement in the United Kingdom and the role Liverpool played in the African slave trade. The SSS group also traveled to London, Wales, and Germany.

The experience had a profound impact on both students.

“It was a great experience,” says Jones. “I’d travel again if I had the opportunity.”

Ambroise did travel again. Later that summer, he made a trip to Haiti. The poverty he encountered was an eye-opener.

For his Study Abroad essay, he wrote a comparison of four capital cities he had visited: London, Berlin, Washington, D.C., and Port-au-Prince.

“I wanted to write about the differences,” he says, “why one city was so successful and one struggles to survive.”

The next year, he went back for a three-month paid internship through an agreement between Liverpool University and SSS, working with a program there that helps low-income students go to college. Ambroise developed a curriculum and taught at eight area middle schools.

Ambroise, who has served as a peer advisor and assistant counselor with SSS, plans a career as a professional counselor. Like Jones, he will go to Central in the fall to earn a master’s degree.

“I love what counselors stand for, what they do for kids,” he says.

“They’re unappreciated but they do so much. I want to help out my community. As I grew up, I saw so many people that needed help, and didn’t know how to get it.”

Ambroise credits SSS with providing the academic and social support he needed to succeed in college.

“SSS really looked out for me,” he says.

“I’ve been through so many situations. I wouldn’t be what I am without them. They’re technically my second family.”

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