Education is my path.

Recently I asked my college success class to write an essay in response to the following prompt:


Many students are unsuccessful in college because they don’t see how college is going to help them create the life they want to live. Write an essay in which you define both what you want to accomplish in your life and how college is going to be an important steppingstone to that success.


I wanted to share one of my student’s  essays that I found to be particularly moving:



Education is not the last chance but it is the path and the opportunity to enhance better existence for everyone. My adventure started in the Berkshires, an amazing place, with beautiful views and tender people.  In 2008, I came from Mexico City. I decided to come to the USA to start a new and better life with my fiancé, Daniel. He is a generous and hardworking Mexican. In that same year, Dana, my first baby, was born and then my second girl Sophia in 2011. I have different roles in my life: a mom, a wife, a waitress, and now, a student. Even though there are many financial challenges in the journey, I believe that I have the courage to pursue my dream to become a nuclear engineer, create a better life for my family, and inspire my Latin community.

I am sure that learning will provide more opportunities to meet new people and improve how we do the things. Going to college is an option, an option for people who want to challenge their lives and have personal growth.  Personally, I know that it will take some years, but I decided not to postpone and to start now. It is hard to manage the time to study, but every day I say to myself: I can push for a little extra. I reorganized my work schedule and home tasks to make time for my studies. I am certain that to succeed in life we need to focus on our goals. Finishing my college education is one of them. At the National University of Mexico (UNAM), I intended to get a degree in Physics, but financial difficulties and my pregnancy did not allow me to continue. In my soul, I always knew that I was emotionally ready to go back to school at any time. However, there were new challenges in the US: the language, the culture, no relatives, no job, and no friends. With hope in my heart, in 2009, I enrolled in ESOL classes. I worked hard to improve my English in the Adult Learning Program for three years.  Finally, in 2013, I completed the Transition Class at BCC South County. This spring semester, 2014, I am taking English 060, BCC 101 and Project Link. For the fall semester, I have been approved to take MATH 145 and ENG 101, and I plan to major in Engineering and Engineering Technology. I want to become a legal resident of the USA and live here permanently. 

I know that happiness is doing the things that you love, and it is much better if you receive remuneration for doing them. I like serving in the restaurant where I work but honestly, I do not want to perform this job forever. In the future, I would like to be remembered as a person who shared her life knowledge and as someone who challenged other people to aspire, particularly, Latino newcomers and students. I want also to teach my girls that whatever their dreams are, they can achieve them. I see myself in ten years working as an engineer, especially in the field of Nuclear Energy. I am going to enjoy my occupation with the people that are around me such, as my coworkers, family, friends, and the larger society. 


Success in college requires more than mastering study skills

Coming to college for all new students, regardless of their academic preparedness,  is similar to arriving in a foreign country.  Students have to learn a new language, new customs, new expectations, roles, and rules, and they have to find out where and when  to learn about these things.  Below is a copy of  the full article  from Community College Research Center that identifies these particular skills and what learning them requires.







They Never Told Me What to Expect (CCRC)

It is not necessarily IQ

Recently, a new buzz word has surfaced regarding student success: grit.  Simply defined, grit is the thing that keeps you on track, helps you accomplish your goals, work through difficulties with your  nose to the grindstone. It’s the ability to stick with something until you’ve mastered it.  The research shows that it’s not necessarily the most gifted or talented or high IQ students who are the “grittiest”.  In fact, students who have the most innate talent are often the least gritty and that that when it comes to high achievement, grit may be as essential as intelligence.


Here is a link to a Ted Talk given by the psychologist who first started studying this somewhat enigmatic quality, Angela Duckworth

Angela Duckworth Talks about Grit



Community college completion strategies lack scale, report finds | Inside Higher Ed

OK.  So here is where I get to voice my opinions in a semi-public way.  When I look at the list of best practices that lead to community college completion, I see that a few of them are happening at BCC.  But, as the attached  article from Inside Higher Ed points out,  colleges then have to make strategic decisions about scaling comprehensive evidence-based approaches.  While we are engaged in some best practices, we have yet to scale them up, so our numbers remain small and too few students are, therefore, receiving the benefits.

If these “best practices” are voluntary for students, many will choose not to take advantage.  This is especially true for students coming in with significant academic  challenges.  Often times, these students don’t have any idea what will help them to be successful.  Why would they?  It’s up to the college to require that students take advantage of these approaches because they work.  They have proven themselves over and over to be effective strategies.

One example is first-year success classes.  If students are asked to choose to take one of these classes, a small number will do so, but the majority will not.  Then when we look at the data, the complaint is that our numbers are too small to make decisions.  It’s a catch 22.  We have to be willing to look at practices that work, not just on our campus, but nation-wide.  This has been done with first-year success courses very extensively and thoroughly.   Once we know what those practices are, we have to be willing to choose one or two and require them of all students or even for a particular group of students.  This might mean making strategic  decisions  about where we will invest scarce time, money, and energy.  Making hard decisions may mean cutting programs to scale up others.

Most students don’t do optional very well.  We need to step up and make some hard decisions about requiring certain  approaches to retention and completion that work.



Community college completion strategies lack scale, report finds | Inside Higher Ed.

“Summer Melt”

It’s about more than hot temperatures.

Researchers at Harvard found that low income, under-prepared  students who plan on going to community college, often don’t  follow through on attending.  Something happens or in this case doesn’t happen during the summer after high school  graduation and before starting college that causes some students’ intentions to go to college to “melt”.  For low income community college bound  students, in particular, upwards of 40% of them  don’t show up to classes in the fall.

Take a listen to the NPR story that was on Morning Edition a couple of days ago  about how one community is dealing with  summer “melt”.



NPR Media Player.

Community College FAQs

Some interesting facts from Community College Research Center about the number of students country-wide who place into developmental education, the number who complete  developmental courses, the cost of developmental education, as well as  the use of placement testing in developmental education.  I found that piece the most surprising.  Accuuplacer is one of the two placement tests used to place students into appropriate courses. The question is, ” how accurate is accuplacer”?  One CCRC study of a statewide community college system found that the ACCUPLACER severely misplaces 33 percent of entering community college students.

A much better predictor of success in courses comes from looking at high school transcripts.

Click on the link below to read  the CCRC findings in more detail.



Community College FAQs.