At the Feather River College Board meeting Aug. 8, beginning of the school year activities were highlighted, along with some long-range planning and a year-end report from Jan Rennie, project director of TRIO Educational Talent Search (ETS).
Sydney Guinto, FRC’s new student trustee, was sworn in. Originally from Cathedral City in Southern California, Guinto is on the FRC soccer team and is studying kinesiology. She plans to transfer to a university and major in biochemistry. Following that, she intends to become a family practice physician.
Board member Guy McNett said, “This is your campus,” and added he looked forward to hearing Guinto report on student concerns. Guinto told the Board she’d talked with returning students, and that some said it was hard to adjust so far from home. Others, however, enjoyed the chance to decompress after “the life they came from.”
FRC President Kevin Trutna gave a short report to the Board regarding his direction to the various college committees in 2017 to create purpose statements. His intent, he said, is to focus these committees on their shared purpose, which is “improving student learning.”
Trutna had accreditation in mind, as well, when he said he intends their work to show that “all committees work towards the college mission and its focus on student outcomes.”
Rennie gave a review of the program’s past year. The goal of the program is to assist first-generation to college and/or economically disadvantaged students to continue in and graduate from secondary school, and to enroll in a postsecondary educational program. Two-thirds of program participants must be both first-generation college attendees and economically disadvantaged. Participants are from sixth to 12th grades and are from most of the area’s public junior/senior high schools along with elementary school sixth-graders.
The program accommodates approximately 600 students per year. Rennie and two part time academic advisors, Courtney Morgan for grades six through eight, and Elizabeth Honeycutt, for ninth through 12th grades, work 10 months out of the year. The grant runs for a five-year cycle, and they’re just entering year four. This year’s grant amount is $268,000.
Rennie explained their focus, starting in sixth grade, is on helping students choose the right college and get them thinking about a career path. Often, she explained, getting them to think about where they want to end up is very helpful, because they can work backward and ask, “What do you need education-wise for your career?”
Rennie said they can talk about all kinds of career preparation including, for example, what it takes to become a car mechanic or beautician. And, while she’s not allowed to promote FRC above other choices, she can work with students on cost comparisons, pointing out the advantages of starting out at a community college. She also said she really pushes students to fill out their FAFSA (student financial aid) forms for college.
She and her staff travel to all of the schools they serve, which are located in Plumas, Lassen, and Sierra Counties. “Our program is unique,” said Rennie, “because in Las Vegas, they might go to one high school with 3,000 students, here we drive” to all of the participating schools.
Some of the services they provide are academic planning, tutoring referrals, college campus visits, college and career fairs, financial literacy workshops, FAFSA workshops, assistance with college admissions applications, college entrance test preparation and research into post-secondary options.
The program receives an external evaluation after years two and four, explained Rennie.
Their last evaluation was in August 2018, and it was conducted by David Ferguson, the Director of National TRIO Programs.
In the laudatory evaluation Ferguson wrote that, with 34 years as a trainer for the U.S. Department of Education, and 36 years as a project director, he could report that FRC’s Educational Talent Search “has become a model program. Its best practices could be a success manual for any program in the nation.” He noted further, “the College and program staff truly want and are willing to work for what is best for the participants. That is a rare and delightful phenomenon.”
Derek Lerch, dean of Instruction, reported that new Nursing Program Director Darlene Oertle did a great job of outlining program expectations and structure at student orientation. The two program instructors are Heather Walls, who also works at Plumas District Hospital, and Ashley Blesse. Lerch noted that the college had recently met with area hospitals about the need for CNAs and LVNs, and they are hoping to expand these programs.
Lerch also introduced the Guided Pathways program, which is a new state initiative bringing high school teachers and administrators together with FRC staff to collaborate on helping high school students identify a career pathway, offer them support, and help them succeed in a shorter amount of time.
“The intent,” explained Trutna, is to help students “choose early and graduate sooner.” Plumas Unified School District, Sierra Office of Education and FRC are working together on this initiative, “to align curriculum, share ideas, and interact” with an eye to creating a “continuum of student success.” This kind of inter-faculty collaboration hasn’t happened in several years, he said.
Finally, Carlie McCarthy, Chief Student Services Officer, noted that fall classes were about to get underway. She outlined the College “Week of Welcome” activities, which began Friday, Aug. 16, which include orientation, dinners, bowling, a concert and more.