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JCC’s Summer Bridge helps some students get ahead

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Jefferson Community College has a wide variety of students who attend the campus, from high schoolers eager to get ahead to students who have not been inside a classroom for 10 years.

During the hot vacation months, the college has run its Summer Bridge program for 11 years to focus on helping students who might not remember how to write a thesis or how to do a complicated calculus problem, while teaching them study skills.

For students who take Summer Bridge classes or sign up for student support services, the 2010-11 school year persistence rate — or the rate a student continues his or her education for another year — was about 78 percent. However, the graduation rate for these students was only about 30 percent.

Gabrielle M. Thompson, director of Strategies to Achieve Results, or STAR, defends these statistics, saying they are about where other colleges’ numbers are. And the college does not make it easy for students who sign on for the program to drop out.

“I question when a student wants to drop at all, because that’s not how I came to know that student,” she said.

JCC Learning and Success Center Director Rebecca R. Small-Kellogg agreed. She talked about a student who stopped answering calls about missing tutoring sessions and was on the brink of dropping out of college. Ms. Small-Kellogg was persistent, though, and called the student every day. The student recently graduated from JCC.

“You need to prove it to me that you’re making the right decision,” she said. “We don’t have the same kind of student here. They tend to drop in and out of school because it’s only one facet of their life.”

She said the graduation rate reflects the type of student who often is found at JCC.

“Some of the students transfer before they graduate. There are military spouses who sign up, and then their husband gets deployed and school becomes too hard,” she said. “We have soldiers that come here for a single year, and then they go to another school because they moved to a different state.”

The Summer Bridge program, which runs four days a week July 9 to Aug. 16, is a very structured noncredit course. For two hours of the day, students take a math or reading course, which is then supplemented with an hour of instruction by a tutor. For the last hour, students take a campus-based workshop, which could be anything from financial literacy to note-taking advice.

This course is free, but comes with a long list of qualifiers. A student must be enrolled full-time in the fall and either be a first-generation student, be disabled or meet income guidelines. However, the student does not have to pay for anything except the textbook.

The college also offers summer refresher courses for math, English and reading through June, July and August that do not have any qualifiers. According to a flyer, there is a minimum $25 sign-up cost as well as the cost of the textbook.

In addition to getting ahead of coursework before starting classes in the fall, Mrs. Thompson noticed a number of friendships develop through the summer classes, an important factor for older students who do not have an anchor in a sea of cliques on campus.

”There are between 20 and 30 students who have spent the majority of summer together. That’s a significant amount of time,” she said. “These new students might be seen studying together or eating lunch together. A student needs to feel connected to stay.”

Although Mrs. Thompson and Ms. Small-Kellogg both feel the program does its intended duty, they also wish more students would take advantage of the student-support programs that run throughout the year.

“The thing that makes me the most sad is when they get to commencement and didn’t know about a service,” Ms. Small-Kellogg said. “We’ve got the spaces, and we have the talent here to help.”

To sign up for a Summer Bridge or refresher academic course, call 786-6555.

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