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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Felicia Henry-Nailon, TRIO Coordinator, speaks with one of her students, Dat Smith, an automotive technology major, in her office inside Harshman Hall at Ivy Tech.

Sunday, June 24, 2018 1:00 am

Adviser at Ivy Tech 'sees the whole student'

Vivian Sade | For The Journal Gazette


Felicia Henry-Nailon

Age: 50

Job title: Ivy Tech Community College TRIO coordinator

Background: Associate of Arts from Grand Rapids Community College with a focus on psychology, and a bachelor's from Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, in sociology with a minor in women's studies; married to Merlyn Nailon, with two adult sons

When it comes to helping college students in need, Felicia Henry-Nailon can relate.

At Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne, Henry-Nailon is a coordinator for TRIO Student Support Services, a federally funded program for students from low-income families, first-generation college students and students with disabilities.

“We help students with whatever they need to be successful,” Henry-Nailon said.

She is one of 11 TRIO employees who assist students from enrollment to graduation, helping 160 students graduate each year.

“We follow their progress, offering motivation, encouragement and academic advising when needed,” she said. “We also help them locate any available dollars for their education.”

What makes Henry-Nailon successful is her firsthand knowledge of overcoming adversity.

She raised two young sons in low-income housing in South Bend and said she has been clean and in recovery for 20 years after battling drug addiction.

When she was in her late 30s, Henry-Nailon enrolled in college. It wasn't easy, but the TRIO program at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan helped her much the way she is now helping Fort Wayne students.

Her immediate supervisor and director of TRIO, Beth Clemens, said Henry-Nailon has elevated the TRIO student experience since she was hired five years ago.

“She is both a strong advocate and a mentor,” Clemens said. “Students look up to her, and given her personal background, I think they often see her as personally successful and hopefully think, 'I can do that, too.'”

Henry-Nailon is a veteran adviser on the TRIO team and has served as a co-adviser with Clemens on the TRIO Leadership Council.

“Felicia really sees the whole student, not just their academics,” Clemens said. “She does this artfully while keeping the student focused on the core goal of academic progress.”

Henry-Nailon understands the pain many students face daily.

“My heart goes out to all the young people who are struggling,” she said. “The only way out of the streets and the issues of society is through education.

“It took me eight years to get my degree,” she said. “But getting an education changed the whole trajectory of my family,” she said.

Helping students to do the same brings her “great joy,” she said, adding, “I love my job.”