Posts tagged ‘college success stories’

Figuring It Out (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from:  Ilisagvik College “Student Spotlight,” March 2011)

Ray Kasak is a soft-spoken young man from Nuiqsut, the son of Rhoda Mullen and Jerry Sikvayugak. He is pursuing an Associate of Arts (AA) degree at Ilisagvik College [Barrow, Alaska] after dropping out of school in 10th grade and taking a series of jobs with no real future.  It did not take long for Ray to realize that he did not have much of a future if he did not go back to school and get his GED and pursue some postsecondary education.  Ray said, “I got tired of going from job to job. I wanted to have a career in something I liked doing. Maybe I’ll be a teacher. Maybe I’ll go on and get a four-year degree?  Right now, I’m excited to be getting my AA degree.”

Ray credits Ilisagvik’s village outreach as one of the reasons he got back into school.  An Ilisagvik recruiter went to Nuiqsut and Ray found himself listening to the recruiter’s message. Now, with the support of his family, the student services division at Ilisagvik, and financial aid, Ray finds himself on the path to a brighter future. “When I first came here I was homesick,” Ray said, “but then my family really encouraged me and the people at student services really supported me and now I feel like I’m really making it here and liking it. I think by having my family be so supportive and happy that I’m here has made all the difference in not giving up when I was homesick.”

According to Jennifer Kiser, Ilisagvik’s Student Advocate, “Ray has been doing great! He is currently a federal work-study student for student services and helps with various tasks from shoveling snow to cleaning rooms. He is very kind and generous. He enjoys spending time with friends and helping others. He really enjoys working with children and wants to have a career that has to do with helping children or helping others. Overall Ray’s positive light and care for others shines through.”

Recently Ray received the highest grade on a test in his biology class.  Instructor Linda Nicholas-Figueroa said of Ray, “In the beginning Ray was shy to ask for help but after the student services set up tutoring sessions for him he became more comfortable and learned that it is ok and a good idea to get extra help when needed.  After a couple of weeks of tutoring sessions Ray felt more confident about how to organize class time along with study time and is no longer in need of tutoring sessions.  Ray is a pleasure to have in class.  He is enthusiastic, positive, outgoing, and fully participates in all classroom activities and discussions.”

In addition, the Dean of Students and Institutional Development, Pearl Brower, states that “Ray is a great student and a great addition to our dorm family here at Ilisagvik.  I commend him for the decision he made to return to school and finish his GED and then to go on to further his education.  I look forward to seeing all of the accomplishments of this young man as he continues to grow and give back to his community.”

When asked what he would say to young people in high school or who dropped out and are now wondering whether they should go back to get their degree, Ray said, “Going to college is an experience you can keep and benefit from no matter what you study. Study something you love and then you can make it a career for the rest of your life.”

Notes from a Gen Xer

by Norma Jones, University of North Texas

During recessions, more non-traditional students (NTS) are returning to earn degrees and learn skills to improve personal economic situations.  As a result, community colleges and universities are competing with newer, online, and private institutions to attract non-traditional learners.  In addition, community colleges and universities have also become increasingly friendly to non-traditional students with online content and flexible scheduling.  I have observed a shift to non-traditional formats such as online classes as well as classes scheduled later in the day to allow for working adults to participate.

The US Department of Education (2002) have assigned the following characteristics to NTS:  delayed enrollment (did not continue onto post secondary in the same year as completing high school), part time, full time employee (35+ hours a week), financially independent (as determined by financial aid services), have dependants, single parents, and have GED instead of a high school diploma.  As of 2000, 73% of all post secondary students have one or more of the above characteristics thus classifying them as NTS.  I find it interesting that the US Department of Education does not include age as a NTS characteristic because in classrooms, non-traditional learners are usually identified because they are older.

The Federal Student aid services (2005) classify NTS as over 25 and as of 2005, over 27% of undergraduate students considered to be non-traditional.  Furthermore, they estimate that between 2006 to 2017, over 25 enrollment will increase by 19%.  Factoring in marketing generations, and as of today, the noted ages corresponds to Generation X who were born between 1966 and 1980.  I identify as a Gen X’er in addition to my other non-traditional characteristics.  In family life, Generation X were the first generation to be sent to day care centers.  Our parents experienced tripled divorce rates and we were also the original latch key kids.  I spent a lot of time at other people’s homes and am amazed at how the younger generation seemingly had at least one parent to come home to.  As a result of instability in homes, and forced independence, Generation X became the first yuppies where we made more money than previous generations.  We worked hard and played even harder.  Lifestyle brands such as The Sharper Image thrived during this time.  As a result, in classrooms and in teaching, my personal feelings regarding early hours and unpopular projects don’t matter.  We’re here to do a job and do it well.  We also witnessed Black Monday of 1987 and our extreme experience lifestyle changes resulting from the current recession.  As a Generation X’er, I sought stability because of unstable home and work lives.  Also, in most cases, the decision to return to or continue education is a marketing one because Gen X’ers are trying to find a means to earn money.  Thus, I suggest that community colleges and universities consider Generation X needs when developing recruiting and educational plans.

As a Generation X NTS, I am in my second year of my masters.  I am also a teaching assistant with my own classes.  So, I have experienced NTS education both as a teacher and as a student. Currently, I am in a Communication + Aging class where I am a couple of years older than my professor.  I am old.  I am older than half my professors.  One of them is actually from the same high school and graduated one year after me.  Being an older TA has advantages.  I don’t have to hide my age from freshmen who are four-five years younger than me and address myself with a title.  As a GenX’er I want stability so, last minute shifting content, schedules, and deadlines via email and text annoy me.  I’m learning to adjust to the faster pace of the wired babies.  Unlike my Millennial peers, I do not want constant handholding or affirmation.  I am amused by younger concerns, such as love and angst, that I haven’t dealt with in the better part of two decades.  But, these are my peers and this is my existing situation.  So, as an overachieving Gen X/Yuppie, I learn to adjust.

Any time! Any place! Any age! Congratulations Ms. Soares!

California woman earns college diploma at age 94! Click here to read her story.

Breaking the cycle, or, what if you’re the first?

Written February 15th, 2010
Categories: Non-Traditional Student
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By Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

I interviewed a Non-Traditional Student (NTS) who had just enrolled at Cleveland, Ohio’s Cuyahoga Community College (“Tri C”) for his first semester. He was a 46 year-old truck driver at the time, and had been thinking about returning to school for 26 years. He kept telling people “I’m going to take a course at Tri C in the Fall,” or Spring, depending upon the time of year. He told me that after 26 years of telling people he was going to be taking a course at the college, it was probably about time he did. Although he had the usual NTS fear of being the oldest student, that fear quickly subsided as he became immersed in his class.

What he hadn’t counted on was the teasing he was going to take from his fellow truck drivers. After signing up to take his first course, he was nicknamed “Joe College.” In addition, his co-workers grilled him on why he was returning to school, i.e. “What do you need college for?”

This is not unusual, no matter what level of school you are entering. Sometimes potential NTS are worried about alienating their families, especially if they are the first to attend college. And sometimes friends and family can get downright mean. From out of the blue, an NTS might hear comments like “You think you’re better than everyone else,” or “You think your opinion is more important than other people’s.”

I heard all of those comments from the time I enrolled in Community College all the way through to earning my Ph.D. (Actually, I still hear the comments.) I am, what is often called, a “first generation scholar.” In other words, I am the first of my five brothers and sisters to attend graduate school, and the first of my enormous extended family to go on to get a Doctorate. My nieces and nephews, many of whom have earned their Baccalaureate’s and/or Master’s Degree, have warmly accepted my advanced schooling. (One niece even calls me “Aunt Doc.”) The same cannot be said for those relatives closer to my age.

So what do you do? First, you must understand that the problem does not lie with you, but with the friends, family and co-workers who suddenly feel threatened by your new choices. You may be doing what many of these people wanted to do themselves, so they are envious and lash out at you to make themselves feel better or more secure. Another scenario is that others may have a skewed perception of the role of education. If they have never gone beyond high school themselves, they will not have the same understanding of the purpose of college as you do. Even you may not realize this yet, but college merely teaches you critical thinking and what questions to ask. It really is not about having the answers. As you expand your range of knowledge, you begin to understand differing perspectives. It is by taking on those differing perspectives that you learn to ask questions. You learn doubt, rather than certainty. Your attitudes, beliefs and values become stretched and more flexible as you embrace other points-of-view. You begin to see the world through a wide-angle lens, rather than peering through a tunnel. That is the gift of education.

I have heard from so many NTS who say that no one can ever take the education away from him or her. Keep that in mind as you begin your college career. Also keep in mind that most of your friends, family and co-workers will wish you well. Enjoy those moments of praise. They will sustain you through those horrendous chemistry exams!

Success stories

Written February 8th, 2010
Categories: Success Stories
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compiled by Dr. Carolyn Babcock

Ms. Karen Jones, the Director of Admissions at East Georgia College, had numerous reasons for not finishing high school, much less attend college. Few people would argue with her if she believed the cards were stacked against her completing her education.

Ms. Jones dropped out of high school at 15 when she gave birth to her son. By the time she was 20, she had 5 children. However, it was because of those children that she was compelled to return to school. So, at age 24 she earned her GED (General Equivalency Diploma) and at 25 – 10 years after she dropped out of high school – she enrolled at East Georgia College. Upon completing her Associate’s Degree, she went on to earn a Baccalaureate’s Degree in Psychology. At age 41, she is currently finishing up her Master’s Degree at Georgia Southern University.

It is safe to assume that for the nearly 17 years she has been in school, she has encountered numerous obstacles. Certainly with 5 children, time management and money would have to be at the top of the list. However, Ms. Jones is living proof that, as one Non-Traditional Student said, “If you want it badly enough, you will figure out a way to make it work.” And, so she did.