Portland Community College Survival Class

College Survival Class handout in the style of Portland Community College syllabus. It provides everything students need to know about the class and how they will be graded.
Photo by Colette Greif

The College Survival Class is a program instructed by Holly Vaughn-Edmonds and Anna York, that helps prepare Franklin seniors who are planning to go to Portland Community College (PCC) after graduation. There are a total of four classes in May, with the last class being a field trip to PCC. During this field trip, students will have the opportunity to become accustomed to the campus and meet with their assigned college coaches and advisors personally, who will assist them as they attend PCC. The program is essentially a cohort of seniors who participate in group activities, including creating a chart comparing high school to college and defining “success” in order to prepare themselves for college life. “Our goal is to work with as many students as possible that [require] us to work with them so they feel comfortable starting at college,” says Vaughn-Edmonds. “Most of the students that we’re working with are [going to be] first generation college students or haven’t had anyone in their family be in college for a long time and they’re just feeling that they need a bit of support.” In addition, students are walked through the process of filling out the college application, completing orientation, picking their classes and receiving their registration which will grant them entry to begin their Spring term at PCC in 2019. In order to receive credit for the program (which will transfer over to their college transcript), they must attend all four classes in the College Survival Class or at least up to ten hours. “Three years ago, Raquel [Laiz] and I started this Summer Melt Prevention,” says Vaughn-Edmonds. The Summer Melt Prevention program was meant for students already attending a four-year university who were struggling and falling behind. The goal of the program was to keep them in school by getting those students enrolled in community college. “This year we wanted to spread the information a little further,” says Vaughn-Edmonds. This experience inspired Vaughn-Edmonds and others in the Franklin College and Career Center to apply the program to students who had not yet graduated from high school and were interested in attending community college. “Last year we were given the opportunity to work on a college survival class,” says Vaughn-Edmonds. “Our principal paid us a [small amount] of money to start [and maintain] the class.” Last year, the College and Career Center experimented with the College Survival Class at Franklin with a small group of students. The following year, all the students who attended ended up with excellent transcripts in college. Vaughn-Edmonds adds that because of this success, “the district is watching to see if this [program] works and [to] see if these students like the class.” Regarding this, Portland Public Schools is looking to apply this program to other high schools. Although it may seem interesting that a community college, which requires less effort to enroll in than a four-year university, has its own program to help students navigate college life, that is the exact reason it is important for community college enrollment to be addressed as well. Vaughn-Edmonds states that, “the community college has not been as connected so that’s why I created this [program].” While community college may be more affordable and local, it is still a great choice for higher education that many students are considering. While community college will still have its own obstacles and challenges, this is a program that many students can benefit from.

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