Program Facilitates Student, Community Relationship


Scott Johnson Elementary teacher Maria Martinez met her CLASP student protégés Sandra Lemus and Rosalinda Marez during a welcome reception on March 26. CLASP is a mentoring program designed to match students with community leaders in an effort to reinforce the SHSU/Huntsville relationship.

Sam Houston State University is “clasping” on to the Huntsville community for a new mentoring program that will pair students with a city resident.

Spearheaded by Texas State University System Board of Regents vice chairman Trisha Pollard, the Community Leaders and Student Partners mentoring program (CLASP), was designed with first-generation college student in mind.

“I began to pay attention to the types of questions my college daughter asked me when she would call, questions like how to calculate GPAs and general types of questions that a college kid would ask,” Pollard said. “I began to think about what a tremendous disadvantage a first-generation student is at when their parents aren’t able to answer those types of questions.”

Now in its second year, the program is being re-energized and coordinated by the Student Advising and Mentoring Center to include more activities for participants, according to SAM Center staff associate Candi Harris, who is managing the program. The program is funded by the Office of the Vice President for Student Services.

The CLASP program is also accepting incoming freshmen and sophomores to participate in the year-long program that will begin each fall.

“This program allows leaders in the Huntsville Community to make an impact on the students at SHSU and gives them some insight into the college student perspective,” Harris said. “By working with their mentors, students could learn more about the Huntsville community and what it has to offer, as well as leadership and networking skills.”

Mentors and protégés can do this through things such as attending community events together or participating in activities in which the mentor would normally participate, such as Rotary Club.

“The other goal is to reinforce with the university leaders that these are a great crop of kids, that they’re smart, and to help the community leaders feel good about the segment of the town’s population that’s on the hill,” Pollard said.

“There aren’t a lot of ways for the community to interact with the college body,” she said. “There can be more opportunities, sometimes, for a member of the community to develop a poor image of the college kids rather than a positive image, so this is just another way for them to see one of the assets that Sam Houston has, which is obviously the students.”

Through CLASP, students can find support not only from an academic standpoint, but from a personal position as well by creating a relationship that will help students feel more at home in their community, which also may lead to an increased retention for SHSU.

“We believe that this program could play an important role in establishing and/or maintaining connections between the Huntsville and SHSU communities,” Harris said. “It seems that the success of one could certainly, in some ways, be dependent on the success of the other, so we should make an effort to work together.

“This is definitely a win-win for everyone,” she said.

For the new five-week “re-energized” program, which began March 26, participants from the Bearkat Learning Community have been matched with city mayor J. Turner, city council member Dalene Zender, retired Texas prison warden Richard Watkins, retired school nurse Helen Watkins, Region VI education specialist Cristina Woods, Walker County clerk James Patton, Scott Johnson Elementary teacher Maria Martinez and Gibbs Elementary principal Rosa Valles.

Students who are interested in signing up for the fall CLASP program should contact Harris at 936.294.4628 or


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SHSU Media Contacts: Jennifer Gauntt
April 6, 2009
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