Alcorn awarded over $1M grant to strengthen student athlete development programs

Alcorn State University has been awarded over $1 million in funding from the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) for a one-year program to strengthen and enhance its student athlete support and development programs.

The university will be provided with $1,036,000 in grant funding for its Strengthening Student Athletes and the Family Enhancement (S.A.F.E.) program designed to assist student athletes with a multitude of targeted services including comprehensive academic advising, interpersonal communication skills, substance abuse awareness, social media etiquette and personal financial planning in state-of-the-art creative learning spaces. Students will also receive assistance applying to graduate and professional schools, internships, career counseling, mentoring, study skills development, leadership training and exposure to community service activities.

“We are thankful to MDHS for their support and recognition of Alcorn as a leading institution focused on strengthening and enhancing our student athletes’ life skills development,” said President Alfred Rankins Jr. “This funding will provide a big boost to the Alcorn family.”

Alcorn is already serving its student athlete population through its Office of Athlete Academic Enhancement’s (OAAE) Four-for-Forty Initiative, which was established in spring 2015 to increase academic progress, graduation success, grade point averages and credit hours earned.

“We are grateful for this opportunity to enhance our value proposition to our student athletes” said Jason Cable, assistant vice president for Athletic Compliance and Academic Services. “The S.A.F.E program will serve as the conduit for additional services and resources that will holistically prepare student athletes to pursue excellence. With our president’s leadership, Alcorn will continue our efforts to identify and implement innovative initiatives for student athlete development.”

The new funding will expand the university’s programs, which are already a proven success. Since spring 2015, over 300 students have participated in OAAE programming. During its two-year span, the average Four-for-Forty students’ GPA has increased to a school record 3.2. In 2015-2016, the university led the SWAC for graduation success rate for a second consecutive year, according to the NCAA.

Marcus Ward, vice president for Institutional Advancement and executive director of the ASU Foundation, Inc, said the new program and funding is part of a campus-wide effort to increase student success.

“We are very excited to assist with administering this innovative program that will enable the university to provide tailored life skills tools to strengthen our student athletes’ success on and off the field,” said Ward. “Our goal is to position students to achieve the highest levels of physical, intellectual and personal growth during their careers at Alcorn. The S.A.F.E. program will help transform the university’s culture and relationship between academics and athletics by promoting an atmosphere and expectation of excellence.”

Through the S.A.F.E. grant, Alcorn will add full-time and part-time staff positions this fall, which will include a program director, program coordinator, support specialists and graduate assistants.