Stacy Ybarra Evans
May 8, 2017
Every student should feel academically challenged yet supported, but what if the mere attempt to enroll in college courses was a deterrence? Mounting evidence supports that developmental education, although preparatory, can leave the least-prepared college student with a mental road block to academic, and career success. Accountability measures relay that although these courses are offered to prepare students for college-level work, they often result in low student progress --lessening the understanding of skills necessary for success in both academic and career goals while in a community college.
Remember when you were in high school and had numerous best friends? Collectively, everyone graduated high school, shared goals and aspirations and maybe even enrolled in college together. This is how I explain Catch the Next - Puente Program when trying to recruit every summer during New Student Orientation in San Antonio, Texas. The students recruited to this program are in the second-to- lowest level of developmental English and are often the first in their families to attend college. As I look around the room while promoting the program, I truly know it works because of who is in the room promoting with me: alumni. Each alumnus is wearing a Catch the Next - Puente shirt and a smile providing insight to each student that has been invited to join the program and the benefits of the program. Such benefits include receiving their own mentor, attending field trips to nearby universities, a personal counselor, the same English instructor from developmental education to college level English class, and a beautiful graduation stole. The program is formatted as a learning community framework and offers goal-oriented cohort-based classes that meet regularly to collaborate on classwork. Hence, the best friend elevator speech truly works for students to have a “mental picture” of how the program can help them.
In 1981, Felix Galaviz and Patricia McGrath both faculty from Chabot College in California developed the framework for the Puente program. They saw students struggle in completing courses in developmental education and decided on an effective framework to help students who avoided academic counseling, were not enrolling in college-level writing courses, and were the first in their families to attend college. In 2012, John Siceloffand and former Yale Dean Maria Martha Chavez joined the mission of empowering these same developmental education students and created the first cohort of students with a duplication of the Puente program, now known as Catch the Next. The program has been implemented at several community colleges and universities in Texas.
Each Catch the Next - Puente college team is comprised of an interdisciplinary cohort of faculty and administrators implementing the program. The team has a director, developmental/college level English teacher, learning frameworks counselor/instructor, mentor coordinator and club advisor. These team members attend a bi-annual training at the University of Texas at Austin and other cities that house the program at its community colleges. The college’s internal evaluation and program surveys ask questions to identify barriers. Action plans are then developed to overcome these barriers. In 2015, the University of Texas at Austin held the very first Catch the Next – Transfer Motivational Conference to selected students at programs from across Texas. The students were provided information on transferring to a four-year university, panelists were invited and a campus tour and an overnight residence hall stay provided students a personal experience of their possible future.
This innovative program has had differing impacts on students. Students have been driven to join college leadership programs that have led them to tour the White House, become involved in student government, and attend conferences such as the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. Recently, I had a student email me a photo of her graduating from a four-year university. She is the proud parent of five children and a first-generation college student. When I asked her what’s next, she stated law school.
Stacy Ybarra Evans is a consultant for Consultant Catch the Next, Inc
Special thanks to the CCD Latino Task Force for submission of this blog post.
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