Boot camp gives students a jump on fall term
Palm Beach State College on Wednesday concluded its weeklong, intensive boot-camp-style programs designed to help students polish their skills and build a support network before tackling their freshman-level English and math courses.
“Math Jump” and “Jump Write In!,’’ both faculty-led initiatives on the Lake Worth campus, required participants to spend eight or 10 hours a day, depending on the program, for five days. They spent the time getting ahead on content they will cover in their intermediate algebra, college algebra or English composition classes.
About 70 students completed the program this summer that included a celebratory lunch on the final day with keynote remarks by PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D. She told students that the program is “an investment in your future. It will jump-start your career; it will jump-start your life. It will take you to the next level, and you will soar.”
Participants said the rigorous schedule was worth it. “It’s really a great experience to meet with people and bond with teachers,’’ said Sacha Hecdivert, an aspiring lawyer who will attend her first semester at PBSC this fall. She was polishing her writing skills in preparation for her ENC 1101 class. “I’ve learned a lot in five days. I’m really motivated to get my associate degree in two years and transfer to Florida State University. I’m going to do everything to succeed.”
“I have not yet taken a math class. I’ve been avoiding it, but now I have a good foundation,” added Yoddline Celestin, who needed to hone her skills for the intermediate algebra class. “I was afraid to fail, but now I’m more confident.”
“I believe when you put hard work into something it always pays off. I’m not really good at reading and writing, but I want to be great,” said Wenson Jean Pierre. “I want to improve my skills and get ready for fall.”
Math Jump launched in 2015 as a pilot program partially funded by the College’s Title V grant that targets Hispanic students as well as those eligible for Pell grants. While it is open to all students, those receiving Title V’s First Step 2 Success Scholarship received priority registration.
Math Professor Alex Opritsa, who created the program with Carlos Ramos, associate dean, and taught the initial class, said all of the 18 participants in the pilot program passed their math classes in the subsequent fall and spring terms. Therefore, last year, the program expanded to include college algebra. The College added “Jump Write In!,” led by English Professor Valrie Martin-Buchanan, this year. Both programs employ additional math and English tutors to assist with the training.
“These students are getting a lot out of this besides the math part of it,’’ Opritsa said. “They are establishing a network of support.”
“This program is important for students to get that head start before getting into ENC 1101,” Martin-Buchanan said. “In the five days, I have seen the needle move in a positive direction. The students are feeling good; they are engaged. I’ve seen even some of their self-esteem go up a notch. The intention is to continue the program. We are committed to doing everything we can to help students.”
Cara Good, Title V program grant manager, said “Math Jump” and “Jump Write In!” fit nicely with the goals of the federal grant to provide additional academic services and support to help with retention and graduation rates of the Hispanic students and students who qualify for Pell grants.
“The results have been so wildly positive for the students. It’s been a great experience for them,” Good said. “All of the professors and deans have been very engaged in the process of community building for the students. They are bringing students together.”
The PBSC Foundation also secured a $10,000 grant from Wells Fargo to cover the cost of breakfast, lunch and snacks for the participants. “We didn’t want the students to have the additional burden of having to pay for food,’’ Good said. “We wanted to help them to build community with other students by providing meals.”
Student Patricia Hernandez, who was honing her math skills, said she believes the College’s plan to expand the programs to other campuses is a good move. “I have my notes, and I’m going to use those notes when I start the fall classes. I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone. I think it helps because you don’t have to pay, they feed us and it’s fun.”