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Achieving the dream “rolls out” at UCC

Freddy Gompf asks the $64,000 question during “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” at the AtD Roll Out
Cindy McSperitt / Mainstream
Freddy Gompf asks the $64,000 question during “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” at the AtD Roll Out

Achieving the Dream (AtD) held its “roll out” party on January 23, 2013 marking the official campus-wide start of this student-centered initiative at UCC.  Faculty, staff and students gathered in the lobby of Jacoby to celebrate the occasion.

Conceived in 2004 by the non-profit Lumina Foundation, AtD is a program that helps colleges identify and address barriers to student success, particularly for low-income and minority students.

Mark Williams, dean of Career and Technical Education, began by introducing himself along with the other members of the UCC initiative’s “dream team”:  Dan Yoder, Kevin Mathweg, Caroline Hopkins, Mandie Pritchard, Freddy Gompf lll, and Emery Smith (not in attendance). The team is comprised of instructors, administrators, counseling staff and a student.

Apple iPads were used by audience members to make comments that posted to a live reader board and provided instant feedback throughout the meeting.

To appreciate how each person interprets information through his or her own perspective, students and staff at the meeting joined in a quick cognitive illusion. Williams passed out pictures of objects that looked different in size; however, when measured with a ruler, the areas of the objects were surprisingly the same.

The exercise illustrated the importance of perception when gathering information in order to make the right decisions.  “It’s easy to get into discussing differences that aren’t really differences,” Williams said.

A panel of eight UCC students, many of whom are enrolled in UCC’s Transfer Opportunity Program, provided their perspective.  The panel included Elizabeth Marlow, Jessica Mixen, Freddy Gompf III, Tonya Arroyo, Lizbeth Villagomez, Michael Perry, Angela Darby and Tammy Rucker.

The panel answered questions, asked by Hopkins, regarding what has helped them with their success and what has presented them with a challenge. Many on the panel credited their success to the TOP program or members of UCC faculty for their support and guidance. 

The TOP program was also credited for providing help with class schedules, tutoring, books and other resources.  “It helps me a lot knowing they believe in me and want me to succeed,” art student Jessica Mixen said.

Challenges for the students including transportation problems, learning disabilities, balancing time constraints and financial aid issues.

 A trivia game based on the television show “Who wants to be a millionaire?” provoked laughter.  Participants could use 50/50 or phone-a-friend lifelines when trying to determine the best answer for their question.  The answers were meant to inform as well as entertain and provided some startling statistics.  For instance, according to the game, UCC students on average take 6.65 years to graduate with an associate’s degree.

Dan Yoder, director of research, planning and assessment, addressed questions on the statistics and pointed out that students come to college “unequally prepared”.  He added that part of the AtD’s challenge is to see what can be done to make students more successful.    

Hopkins is currently facilitating a class called Bridges Out of Poverty that discusses economic and cultural barriers in our society and looks at models for change.  Hopkins reported that the class is now in its third week with 66 participants, five of whom are students.  Discussions have included the definitions of poverty, linguistics and the hidden rules in our culture. 

 The roll outs final activity sparked the most discussion.  Volunteer audience members were each given an envelope which included a challenge similar to real obstacles students have to overcome.  Pritchard warned the volunteers, “These are not easy challenges.” 

Student ambassadors came up with the challenges which included doing homework without the internet, relying on a friend for transportation to and from school and washing laundry at the laundromat.  The challenges were meant to represent a day in the life of a student, Pritchard said. 

Adviser Lori Yeo shared the challenge she received which was to feed a family of four for a week with a food box.  Although unsure of the contents of a food box, Yeo thought the challenge would be difficult and expected to make sacrifices.  “I would go without food for a couple of those days,” Yeo said, “in order for my children to be fed.” 

Those that agreed to accept a challenge were encouraged to work with a partner and were asked to fill out a questionnaire after completing the challenge.  “It’s important that we hear back from you,” Pritchard said.  “We want to know what the experience was like for you.”  Questionnaires are to be returned to an AtD core member by February 13.

For more information on Achieving the Dream, go to www.achievingthedream.org or contact any UCC “dream team” member.