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Special education major benefits from UCM Advantage program

(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – The UCM Advantage program gave one special education major the kick in the butt she needed.

Leigha Zank, a 19-year-old sophomore from Independence, said she didn’t even realize she would receive the scholarship.

“I had terrible grades in high school, so I just figured that was all I was capable of. I ended my first year at UCM with A’s and B’s, and receiving this scholarship made me want to work even harder,” she said.

Zank was part of the first class to be awarded this competitive $250 scholarship and said the UCM Advantage program helped improve her study habits.

Carmen Binder, learning specialist with Academic Enrichment, said the university introduced the UCM Advantage program in fall 2016. She said the program is for selected incoming freshmen who fall just shy of admission criteria but demonstrate promise and are motivated to pursue a college career.

“The scholarship was designed to reward the students for their hard work and determination,” Binder said. The program has two academic specialists on staff who make it a priority to help the students with what they need and make sure they meet program goals. The goals include reaching a 2.5 GPA, attending 85 percent of class and checking in with their support coach regularly for two semesters in order to be eligible for the scholarship Binder said.

She said the first semester of the program had 163 freshman students, and there are currently 244 freshmen.

This program offers support, tutoring, and activities that help students get to know each other. After improving their grades and study habits, students receive a $250 scholarship as a cash reward incentive.

Zank was one of those students.

She said that she was invited to join the UCM Advantage program via a letter in the mail before the start of her freshman year and signed up. She said she didn’t know about the scholarship but joined to improve her study habits. She said she had low motivation and low expectations for herself and her college career.

Zank said she set the bar low because she had average grades and tests scores.

During several meetings and discussions on goal setting with Carmen Binder, Zank said she was motivated to do better.

“Carmen Binder really helped me and opened up a lot of opportunities for me,” she said.

Zank said she recommends the program for freshmen like her. She was able to put her scholarship toward her tuition for her next semester at UCM.

Binder said she is proud of Zank and her accomplishments and helps her as much as possible.

“No one is turned away,” Binder said. “These services are for everyone.”

Binder said this program is a great support system for many students and she invites anyone to join and use the resources that are available.

She said this program encourages students to go to a four-year university and complete the full experience as opposed to attending a community college or not finishing school.

“We know they can be successful here,” Binder said.

Anyone is welcome to apply for the program or sign up for tutoring online or in the Academic Enrichment office located on the third floor of the library.

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