One Student’s Journey
by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist
Today’s high school students are told constantly that they are on a long journey from school to college to career. They are urged to build their skills in order to succeed in a demanding job market. But for many, the transition to college is not mapped clearly enough. They enroll, but then find that their road to graduation is longer and more winding than expected. They discover that college acceptance does not guarantee enrollment in credit-bearing courses that lead to a degree. The road can detour through remedial courses that cost money and take time but do not count toward a degree. This is the story of one student who straightened out her college journey by taking a road less traveled by.
Cynthia entered this country as a high school student. Her father was already living in America, but her mother could not make the journey with her. She spoke English but it wasn’t her first language. “When I first moved to the US, it was a whole new system that I had to adapt to,” she recalled.
She did well at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS) and was accepted by Bunker Hill Community College. However, she quickly found out that she would need to take a battery of placement tests before she could enroll in the courses she wanted. If she did not score high enough on those tests, she would have to take remedial courses that would cost full tuition and fees but would not count toward her degree. Her road to college had begun to swerve.
Fortunately for her, CRLS was one of a small group of schools statewide that had a partnership with JFYNetWorks offering a college readiness course, called JFYNet, to prepare students for those placement tests. She jumped at the chance and signed up for the after-school sessions. When JFYNet gave her the placement tests to gauge her skill levels, she was glad she had signed up: her scores were below the passing levels and would have led to multiple remedial courses if she had waited to take the tests at college.
The course was “blended,” meaning that the instruction was online but there was a teacher in the class to help when she got stuck. The online lessons were tailored to her own learning needs, and the pace of instruction was controlled by her own progress. If she went fast, the screen moved fast; if she went slow, it waited for her to catch up. If she needed to repeat a lesson, she could do it as many times as she wanted.
Cynthia’s skills improved steadily. She could see her progress in the mastery quizzes at the end of each lesson. When she took the placement tests again at the end of the course, she had raised her scores enough to place out of all remedial courses. More importantly, she had filled learning gaps and built essential skills that she would need to handle the coursework in college.
Cynthia continued to study with JFYNet through the summer to strengthen her skills further. She knew that college would get more and more difficult the farther she went. “The JFYNet program really helped me understand what college courses would be like and to get ready for them,” she said.
The result of all her hard work has been well-deserved success. Cynthia is studying biology at Bunker Hill and hopes to get her Associate’s degree this year. Then she will transfer to UMass Boston and continue to study biology. Her long-term career goal is “to work at Children’s Hospital and change lives.“
In addition to school, Cynthia has a full-time job at UPS, an internship with the City of Cambridge, and a weekend job at a restaurant. Through her own perseverance and determination, with a little help from JFYNet at CRLS, Cynthia is enjoying success in college and building toward her career goal and success in life. That less-traveled road she took back in high school has made all the difference.