Some young adults were disappointed to learn Harper College officials believed they needed a bridge into college life. Monika Pasek didn't want to hear that she needed to enter the Palatine community college's Choice Scholars Institute program. The institute is a four-week course designed to help students who need one or more remedial classes as they make the transition from high school to college.
For Pasek and others, however, that bridge has meant everything. The journey over the bridge took them places that will help them grow for years to come. Pasek now has a 3.0 grade-point average, is heading to Roosevelt University and serves as a peer mentor for the Choice Scholars Institute. The institute "opened a lot of doors for me," she said.
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Harper isn't the first community college or university to offer remedial help. Several state universities do the same. The concept and similar programs seem to pay great dividends in many cases.
Palatine resident Eric Nielsen said the program helped improve his writing scores and taught him to approach problems differently, skills critical for Nielsen because he hopes to become a teacher someday himself.
David Guerrero, a Harper sophomore also serving as a peer mentor in the program, noted it helped him improve in subjects he found tough. The bigger benefit, though, was in getting a chance, in a more intimate setting, to get to know and build relationships with professors and other leaders in the program.
Harper took the institute to another level in its third year this year by partnering with Motorola in order to teach students about career paths.
Imagine it. You've just graduated high school and you're the newbie all over again. But you get an early start on learning the campus layout, meet some of your teachers in smaller group settings rather than huge lecture halls, and you get a chance to interact with Motorola executives? It almost seems like those who don't need remedial help are the ones missing out.
More of our suburban institutions should consider building these kinds of bridges. It doesn't have to be limited to schools. This kind of individual attention at the onset of school life, government life or even business life can create bonds and successes that multiply over lifetimes.
Last week at Harper, Motorola's innovation strategy director Maria Thompson talked to students in the program about unconventional thinking, problem solving and about constantly being on a quest to solve problems. Thompson talked about some of the failed creations of Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. "Every problem is an opportunity for invention," she said. And she handed out T-shirts that read: "Failure _ the birthplace of brilliance."
Think about it. What a powerful message for all of us students of life everywhere.