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Community college program seeks to engage freshmen

Recently graduated local high students will receive help

Posted: September 23, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 23, 2012 2:00 a.m.

In an effort to fight the “parking lot, class, parking lot” mentality and build a bigger campus community, College of the Canyons officials say they are expanding the college’s First Year Experience program.

The program assists newly graduated local high school students in getting the units and counseling they need to help them on their path, said Audrey Green, associate vice president of academic affairs.

“(Students) pull in, they go to class, and they go back into their car and leave,” Green said. “And that’s not what the college experience should be — whether you’re going to a two-year school or a four-year school.”

Building engagement between students and the campus’s resources, school officials say, will also help connect their educational goals with career goals, an important step for many students at that stage of academics, Green said.

The program creates a partnership between COC and the William S. Hart Union High School District that helps “really boost college success rates in our graduates,” said Gail Pinsker, Hart district spokeswoman.

First Year Experience combines activities other than those strictly academic, including Cougar Days orientation, with more traditional ones, such as placement testing.

After students go through a progression of testing, counseling and orientation appointments, they’ll meet with a counselor who ensures they enroll in the right English and math classes based on their respective academic and career goals.

There’s a guarantee of 12 units, but in the fall, students must also take a one-unit academic counseling course that is essentially a weekly meeting with a counselor.

In the spring, they are required to take a one-unit course meant to instruct them on how to align their academic goals with career goals, in addition to the math and English course they are guaranteed.

One of the more popular perks of the program is the ability for those who complete it to have guaranteed access to the English and math classes they need.

“It’s about connecting them to the college,” said program coordinator Garrett Hooper. “The security is the 12 units, but ultimately, what we’re trying to do is to provide a support system.”

Last year, the program was only open to William S. Hart Union High School District students who did not test into college-level placement courses in English and math.

This year, the program was opened up to all recent Hart district graduates, and students have responded. The program has grown from 198 students last year to 400 students this year, said Hooper, who’s also a member of COC’s counseling staff.

Early numbers indicate the strategy is working. The program’s retention rate was 98 percent for first-time freshman last year, about 12 percent higher than the general population. The overall success rate of students in the program was 64 percent, which was 13 percent higher than the rest of the population.

“When that sense of community is created — not just to COC and the institution, but to the resources and staff — students are more successful,” Hooper said. “And that’s powerful.”


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