Providing the means necessary is goal of ASC Developmental Education

(03-05-2010)

Helping students transition into college-level courses and overcome academic obstacles towards a successful college career are responsibilities of the Adams State College Developmental Education Department faculty Karen Lemke and Oneyda Maestas.

They traveled to Madrid, Spain, in November, to attend an international conference geared towards student success. Over 600 from 60 countries attended the conference.

They both presented at the two-day conference and received positive feedback from other participants. "Adams State faces the same issues and dilemmas when teaching to at-risk students as universities across the globe," Maestas said.

"We traded ideas and information on reaching all students," Lemke said. Maestas agreed, "We all are on the same page when looking for innovative ideas to provide all our students with an opportunity to complete a college degree."

"We also realized that Adams State is cutting edge in many of our approaches," Lemke said. "We are doing a good job even when compared to larger universities around the world."

Lemke, STAY coordinator, said she avoids judging students as to whether or not they are college material. "There are students, at all academic levels, who work to meet the requirements necessary to become successful in academia." Structured Transitional Academic Year (STAY) is a program designed to meet the needs of underprepared students, including providing access to tutors, service learning, and intense advising methods.

Students in the developmental education classes come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some are supporting a family, working outside the campus, and taking classes full-time. There are those who graduated high school with with low grade point averages and others, top of the class. Regardless, some are determined to meet their educational and professional goals including becoming teachers, wildlife biologists, state troopers, and small business owners.

A student in Lemke's class graduated early from high school and was enrolled in a competitive enrichment program, shadowing legislators in Washington, D.C. Lemke said colleges are held to standards set by national commissions and can't always offer the same diversity of teaching methods of K12 schools. "We appreciate the public school system for working with children at all academic levels. Oneyda and I use all the means at our disposal to encourage college success."

Maestas relates to her students as individuals and leads by example. "You need to teach from and with the heart, the fifth sense. It is about adding empathy to the curriculum and incorporating cultural narrative therapy to help students take ownership of their learning."

Background can also play a part in a student’s academic success. "Some students have yet to learn how to plan for the future past next week," Lemke said. Maestas agreed, she said her students write a timeline for the immediate future into a couple of decades to teach them "goal setting" skills.

"Yet despite these obstacles and challenges, many of our students want to enrich their lives and give themselves and their families better opportunities through education," Lemke said.

By Linda Relyea