The Beginning

Santa Ana College (SAC) set out to develop success teams that would improve college communication with students and also improve communication between offices and services. The Guided Pathways team defines success teams as “cross-functional teams focused on supporting and guiding students through their academic journey.” SAC started by piloting one Success Team around their “Future Educators” Career and Academic Pathway (CAP), the college’s form of meta-majors. This team had a CAP coordinator, counseling lead, three discipline faculty leads, a career coach, student success coaches, and an administrative support team consisting of a financial aid specialist, a research analyst, and technology support. This team worked for one year to design the communication systems, support systems, and collaborations across the college before the Guided Pathways Team in partnership with CLP expanded success teams to all eight of the CAPs.


“We not only supported students in their college and career needs in the Career and Academic Pathway, but in their academic and social/emotional needs too.”
Sara Vu, Student Services Coordinator/Student Success Coach



The Future Educators Success Team started with trying to better understand who the students are in that specific CAP and what challenges they face. They looked at the student demographics, finding that most are age 19 or under, female, and Latinx. Given this demographic, the team worked to understand the needs of students transitioning from high school and adult reentry programs because these groups make up the majority of the students in the CAP. The Success Team also surveyed students to identify what barriers they were facing to completing their goals at the college, discovering that the types of barriers were varied but all equity populations faced some challenges.

From there, the team set goals that were focused on the college’s identified equity populations and grounded in equity-minded approaches and practices, and they planned ways to assess success in reaching their goals. The team identified seven goals for students in the Future Educators CAP:

    • Complete English and math in their first year
    • Persist from fall to spring semester
    • Receive support to complete their educational goals, especially those that are close to completion
    • Participate in a program orientation
    • Establish a mentor relationship with one faculty lead
    • Complete a CAP student self-assessment
    • Engage in an early field work experience


“The peer to peer connection is key.”
Tanisha Burrus, Student Services
Coordinator/Student Success Coach


The team started by taking inventory of the existing supports offered to students in the CAP and tried to identify gaps and opportunities to make service more seamless. The inventory also helped them identify areas for improvement where they could learn about best practices and apply them. After the first semester, the team worked with institutional researchers to monitor student progress. They discovered that only 45 of the 166 students were enrolled in the next semester’s classes, so the team emailed students to provide direct and intentional registration support. They learned that many of the students were unsure how to register and needed the extra support to find the information they needed to persist.

The faculty leads reached out to all of the faculty in the CAP to make sure that they were familiar with the Success Team, Early Alert software and processes, and how the team would be using the alerts to respond to student needs. Additionally, Career Coaches developed employer agreements with Santa Ana Unified School District, SAC’s K-12 partner, to build solid connections and help students access paraeducator job openings. They developed a system that would ensure that students enrolled in the Future Educators CAP would have first access to the jobs. The students were able to participate in an interview skills workshop and received support in finding and applying for jobs. They also worked to build community relationships and partnerships with local libraries, professional associations, and other professional development opportunities.

Counselors and coaches went to classes, did presentations, and made connections with the students to develop one-on-one relationships with each student, knew their name and their program of study, and met the students where they were even when that meant meeting them outside their classes. Connection to students was key. The team wanted all students to know there was a team there to support them. Counselors continued to be available for students outside of class to answer questions and to make appointments to complete their Ed Plans before or after class.

As the team closed the year, they developed common goals for all success teams to aid in the expansion to all of the CAPs in the second year of implementation.

Common goals:

    • Ensure that the college data system has the correct major/program recorded for all students
    • Ensure that Pell-eligible students are receiving their financial aid
    • Ensure that all new full-time students in CAPs have a two-semester or comprehensive student educational plan


“I really enjoyed the collaboration between academic and student services because that provides a seamless pathway for students and gives them the holistic support that really shows we are here for them and want them to succeed.”
Sara Vu, Student Services Coordinator/Student Success Coach


Tools for Developing Success Teams at Your College

This is a collection of three guides outlining key steps in developing success teams: exploring the framework; building your success team; and assessing the impact. Each guide includes resources, activity suggestions, and discussion questions.

Produced by CLP with funding from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.