Kenyon Helm was a very smart student in high school at East Aurora High School. The classwork came easily to him, but because of that, he didn’t care that much about it. He was not motivated to go to college when he finished high school. Dr. Chassie Sherretz, an advisor with the Upward Bound Program, convinced him to take classes at Waubonsee Community College, which he did with the intent to study engineering.
He did not, however, do as well academically at Waubonsee as he could have. He left college for a period of time, but Sherretz maintained contact with him and insisted that he go back to school. He did and in the fall 2019 semester, Sherretz introduced Helm to Waubonsee’s Transforming and Impacting Undergraduate Men Pursuing Higher Education (TRIUMPH) Program. Kenyon is now on track to graduate from Waubonsee, transfer to a four-year college to earn a degree in business, start his career, and help as many people as he can along the way.
“In TRIUMPH we have a lot of opportunities to do things and to learn,” said Helm.
A key part of the TRIUMPH Progam is mentorship. The young men in the program have their own mentors who come from similar backgrounds and have similar experiences as the students. The students can also interact with other mentors from across the program and not just their own mentor.
“It’s a good way to experience relationships,” Helm said about the mentorship aspect of TRIUMPH.
Sherretz is now the Academic Success Initiatives Manager at Waubonsee and oversees the TRIUMPH Program. She has known and worked with Helm since he was 15-years old at East Aurora High School. She makes sure the students are connected to mentors and to each other.
“Seeing the different personalities of the men in the program as they click together is great. The mentor experience is tremendous,” said Sherretz.
The mentors and students of the program make each other accountable and help each other grow together, according to Sherretz. They do this in a variety of ways.
“We volunteer, share with each other, and work with mentors on doing things for the community,” said Helm.
Waubonsee launched the TRIUMPH program in partnership with Triton College. The program has also been launched at Elgin Community College. The program celebrates the diversity of the students of Waubonsee and the larger community while creating equity that helps students succeed. On January 20, the TRIUMPH Program was recognized by Mayor Irvin of the City of Aurora for its contributions to student success. Visit www.waubonsee.edu/triumph to learn more about this program.