San Jacinto College developmental education student Charles Powell, left, found new direction through the Intentional Connections program. Auto collision repair technology instructor Glen Kirkwood provides guidance to Powell during a class project. Photo by Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing department.
New program helps developmental students get ‘connected’
Students can ‘test drive’ programs through San Jacinto College’s Intentional Connections
Rob Vanya, October 25, 2012
HOUSTON – San Jacinto College has launched Intentional Connections, a program designed to provide guidance and mentoring to an underserved group of students – lower level developmental students who struggle with core subjects, but want to complete college and improve their lives.
“We launched Intentional Connections because we sensed that under-performing developmental students often need extra assistance in order to adjust to college, stay in college, and complete certificates or degrees,” commented Dr. Rebecca Goosen, San Jacinto College’s associate vice chancellor of college preparatory.
Intentional Connections is available for qualifying developmental students at the North Campus, with plans to expand the program to San Jacinto College Central and South. San Jacinto College offers developmental education courses (also called college preparatory) at all three campuses. Developmental classes assist students who are under-prepared in core subjects, such as reading, writing, and math.
“Students at the lower levels of college preparatory classes have almost zero chances to make it in college and reach their academic goals, often due to a lack motivation and support,” commented Myrna Gonzalez, a North Campus developmental integrated reading and writing professor who helped Intentional Connections get started. She says that many of these students do not have a role model to follow, are often first generation college students, and are not aware of how to obtain financial aid and what questions to ask. “They need someone who can guide them to make the right decisions,” added Gonzalez. “They just need some helpful guidance, support, and encouragement.”
Trained faculty members serve as Intentional Connections mentors (case managers), who work closely with identified developmental students, learning what career fields they may be interested in, and evaluating their educational strengths and weaknesses. After an assessment process, mentors help the students to get “connected” with key administrators and faculty members. “We let students ‘test drive’ different programs,” Gonzalez remarked. “For example, if a student says he or she is sort of interested in culinary arts, then we introduce the student to the culinary arts department chair, and the student gets to attend two or three culinary arts classes (not for credit) to see if it will be a good fit. If that does not work out, then the student can test drive another program.”
One student who found new direction through Intentional Connections is Charles Powell. By his own admission, Powell does not do well in language arts. He does, however, enjoy building things and doing light mechanical repair work. During his assessment process, he indicated he would like to attend some classes in San Jacinto College’s auto collision repair program. There was an instant connection, and Powell is now well on his way to earning an occupational certificate in auto collision repair technology. After that, he plans to get a job in an auto body shop.
“Intentional Connections has made a big difference in my life,” Powell said. “I found a career I really like, and I have a goal of finishing college. I am also doing better in other areas, too. My reading skills are improving.”
Intentional Connections case managers track the progress of developmental students until the students either earn college certificates or associate degrees, or until they transfer to higher institutions. Gonzalez says it is gratifying to help steer “at-risk” students in a positive direction. “I see how their attitudes change toward college once they meet with department chairs, visit classes, and learn first-hand from experts in the field,” she said.
Goosen says there is a push in Texas and in other states to place below average developmental students in Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs, which are a part of the K-12 public school system. She says placing them in ABE would not be a good idea.
“These students already have a high school credential, so I feel it would be counterproductive to place them in Adult Basic Education,” Goosen remarked. “Two-year colleges offer a more effective way. College educators are trained to educate adult learners. At a college, low performing developmental students can learn job skills in craft trades, they can get valuable on-the-job training through internships, they can earn occupational certificates, while at the same time they improve in core subjects like math and writing. They may not receive that type of education and training in ABE programs.”
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.
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