Frank Tyree is the Success Coach for Roanoke City students participating in Virginia Western’s Community College Access Program (CCAP). Tyree joined Virginia Western in 2021 and previously worked for Roanoke City Public Schools at Westside and Garden City elementary schools. Prior to RCPS, he was an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Norfolk State University, helping the teams that he oversaw win three MEAC Championships.
What does a Success Coach do?
I aim to motivate students to achieve greatness in their postsecondary educational careers. I share strategies and advice, and connect them to resources on campus. A Success Coach is there for all the things that may pop up in a student’s daily life, whether it be big or small. I want to help build their confidence, so they know they can be successful in college and life.
How has your sports background helped you in this position?
A large part of the training of athletes is having them buy in, believe in the process and trust you as their strength coach. A freshman athlete has never practiced at such a high level – better yet, competed on the collegiate stage – so everything is new to them. Things can be overwhelming and intimidating, so in athletics I was able to alleviate these worries by having honest conversations, providing detailed explanations of my programming and being available to answer any questions an athlete may have.
I feel the same is true for college students. For many, the process is uncharted and can produce a lot of worry and uncertainty. I help alleviate the student’s worries the same way, by motivating students to believe in the abilities they have and encouraging them to keep going even when things get tough.
What makes you smile the most about your job?
I enjoy seeing a student emerge from a difficult situation, such as a semester-long struggle in a course, and then pull out that grade that they did not think they were capable of achieving. I enjoy hearing about the student’s hard work and effort that they put in to earn good grades. But what makes me the most excited is hearing the strategies they created and lessons they learned along the way. Many of these lessons they can use later in life when obstacles emerge.
What kind of changes do you see in students during their first year in community college?
Self-awareness is a big area of change. I find many new students, when they first speak with me, are unaware of who they are, where they are weak, and what their strengths may be. However, by April or May those same students are often more aware of their weaknesses and have learned how to navigate roadblocks in their education. They also recognize how to better utilize their strengths and how they can be used toward their success. By the end of that first year, I love seeing when they have taken ownership of their education and care much more about college than when they first set foot on campus.
What is your greatest success story so far as a Success Coach?
One stands out – the story of a young man who was enrolled in a course of study that was not the correct fit for him. The young man struggled in his classes in his first semester, ended up with 0.28 GPA and lost his CCAP scholarship. However, I told the young man that I would continue working with him.
The following spring, I connected him to TRiO Pathways, another excellent campus resource for first-generation students. I would also call periodically to check up on him, and he made a point of visiting me in person on campus to show me his progress.
This student would go on to change his course of study to one that he enjoyed. We talked about what success could look like for him, and I encouraged him to lose some bad habits. He took this to heart, focused on school and ended that semester with a 2.85 GPA in his program of study. This young man now has more confidence, has inspired his younger cousin to come to Virginia Western, and is motivated to achieve greatness here at the College and beyond!
(This story was published in the Winter 2023 edition of Impact magazine, a publication of the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation.)