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WAXAHACHIE, October 6, 2022 — Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) recently received the Accelerate Student Success Planning Grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). This planning grant, totaling $46,246.00, has allowed SAGU to begin an on-campus pilot program known as “Lions Leading Lions (L3).” Additionally, the funding provided the University with the resources to work with L3 Program Director Calvin George and L3 Peer Advisor Director Ellie Gates to research and develop a plan so that the program can serve the student body for many years to come. 

The L3 initiative’s chief goal is to increase student retention by helping students overcome the obstacles that might jeopardize their degree plan completion and subsequent graduation. “A large concern for us,” Dr. Kimberly James, VP of Institutional Effectiveness, says, “is how many students struggle.” Since many incoming students do not have the needed support systems when they begin attending the University, students rely on SAGU’s support systems when obstacles in their educational journey arise. Research shows peer support systems successfully maintain and elevate student retention. Through peer advising, potential threats are identified and addressed earlier than in traditional advising settings. The Lions Leading Lions Program is precisely that- a built-in support system for students with the tools they need to succeed. 

“We want to make sure every student has the same opportunity,” L3 Logistics Coordinator Dr. Jerry Roberts says. “Perseverance is the big thing we’re actually shooting for.” Dr. Roberts mentions that the elevated retention rate will be a natural benefit of the program as students increase their sense of belonging and receive the support they need. “If they feel like they belong somewhere,” Dr. Roberts says, “and they want to work, and they know that they’re cared for and loved…then retention is naturally going to increase.” From the administration side, the University hopes to increase student retention by at least 5% through this initiative. 

The L3 program will have several components: Peer Mentors, “Strategies of Student Success (S3)” teachers, selected faculty and students. The Peer Advisors will be SAGU upperclassmen who understand the unique challenges of incoming students. “Peer Advisors know that there are students who have a difficult time transitioning to the culture of the University,” says Dr. Roberts. “They have the heart to help incoming students make that transition and be successful and persevere through that difficult first year or so.”

(from left: Mercy Priest, Priscilla Rivera, Tessa Glick, and Lorena Zarzoza)

The grant has allowed several SAGU students to participate as Pilot Peer Advisors in the program. “It has allowed us to try everything there is to try this first year,” says Dr. Roberts, “and get feedback from the students. When we are ready for the full launch next year, we will have a lot of data and feedback that will help us to grow the program.” 

The grant also funded the planning and draft development of a L3 webpage and training manual that will be used in the upcoming implementation phase of the initiative.

(from left: Dr. Jerry Roberts – Logistics Coordinator, Peggy Jones – Student Success Director, Ellie Gates – Peer Advisor Director, Calvin George – Program Director)

SAGU plans to apply for an additional THECB grant that would allow for the full implementation of the L3 initiative. With the assistance from this implementation grant, L3 could move toward a wider launch in Fall of 2023 with as many as fifteen active Peer Advisors in addition to oversight of the program by faculty and staff. “We really believe in this program,” says Dr. James, “We feel like it’s going to make the difference in the lives of students. They’re making connections with one another, and we all know that a sense of belonging, which is really important to us at SAGU, and is part of what causes a student to be successful.”

As a leading Christian university, SAGU educates and prepares individuals who want to serve Christ and others. SAGU helps students discover and develop their God-given gifts in a Spirit-empowered, learning community. We believe in affordable tuition, made possible in part through the financial support of donors who embrace the mission of SAGU and the importance of affordable, accredited programs to train Christians for leadership in ministry, business, education, and service. Most majors are available in-person in Waxahachie, TX, and online through a wide range of associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

For more information about SAGU, please visit

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