|Kentucky Dream Coalition and Bluegrass Community and Technical College|
Defining the Problem that Brought the Team Together
On a yearly basis, the Kentucky Dream Coalition conducts a survey of Latino youth and families to gauge their knowledge of higher educational opportunities. On average, about a third of respondents do not know about the post-secondary opportunities available to them. Combatting widespread ignorance about educational opportunities will be a key part of the partnership. Other hurdles include the language barrier (only 23% of those surveyed responded that they “spoke English very well”), cost, and inaccessible financial aid due to documentation status. These barriers result in low family income and high levels of family poverty.
Description of the Partners
Kentucky Dream Coalition (KDC) is a broad-based youth and young adult community network created to help immigrant youth and their parents access higher education through mentoring, programming and advocacy. In addition to the KDC’s strong advocacy for immigration reform, KDC members focus on helping youth stay in school, helping adults to connect to GED programs, and assisting students to make plans for college and serve their community though meaningful leadership development, and empowerment projects. KDC is also home to The DREAM Educational Empowerment Program (DEEP). DEEP is a catalyst for educational justice and empowerment for all immigrant students whose goal is to educate, connect, and empower immigrant students, parents and educators to close the opportunity gap and engage in local efforts to improve educational equity. KDC is a perfect community partner to connect with BCTC because of its broadly engaged Latino community, its national network connections, and its focus on educational access and achievement in the Bluegrass region.
Original Work Plan
Currently at the college, there are no clear pathways or support mechanisms to help AE/ESL students transition into technical programs. The team worked with the adult education department to develop a workshop for faculty with provides them with the tools they need to support AE/ESL student who wish to make the transition to credit programs. This workshop identifies the transition processes and procedures, provides faculty with contact information for key staff/faculty at the college. Essentially, this workshop helps to improve college processes and create a clear pathway to credit technical programs for AE/ESL students.
To improve the promotion of the biotechnology program, the team, in conjunction with the faculty, developed a calendar of local events and venues related to the immigrant/Latino community so the college can target market the new program option. The team created the English language content for marketing materials to promote biotechnology careers and presented a biotechnology workshop at the 2015 Latino Multicultural College Fair at Eastern Kentucky University where more than 500 students from 12 central KY high schools participated. Also, the team has scheduled a “Take your GED/ESL to college night’ for April 2016 to present the biotechnology workshop to current AE/ESL students.
Impact of the Initiative and Lessons Learned
One office that implements intentionality as its basic operational ethos is the Office of Latino Outreach. The team hopes to extend this ethos to other areas of the college that affect immigrant student outcomes. As such, the college needs an Immigrant student coordinator/navigator who can link the different college processes and navigate bottlenecks. Currently, the college has coordinators/navigators for Latino Students and Military/Veteran students. Adoption of this model to assist all immigrants would improve student access to, and completion of, credentials leading to careers.
The college also needs to improve other career pathways options. The website has online career information, however, this website is difficult to negotiate and is edited across many different areas of the college. Thus, the college needs to undergo a website update in an “intentional” process to help immigrant students make the connection between ABE/ESL courses and career options.
As with any institution of higher education, the team has struggled with making change. Because curriculum in the state of KY’s community college system is considered “state-wide” curriculum, any changes to the curriculum can take more than 18 months to implement, and only then if approval is obtained across the system. Rather than develop new curriculum to facilitate immigrant enrollment into the biotechnology career pathway, the team adopted biotech courses that had been developed as part of the Accelerated Opportunity (AO) project. However, to help Latinos recognize the opportunity as a viable career pathway, the team recognized the importance of bilingual materials to promote the certificate program. Finally, to accommodate Latino students, the college’s mandatory placement policy, which restrict ABE/ESL student enrollment, needed to be addressed. Thus the development of the contextualized curriculum embedding biotechnology with ESL and literacy skill development. These broad scale changes on several fronts have delayed enrollment with a new target date of Fall 2016.
Future Plans and Sustainability of the Partnership
Finally, the team’s work is expanding beyond the biotechnology program. The team has engaged in initial conversations with the Adult Education Directors to investigate the creation and implementation of an ESL health/sciences curriculum option for immigrant students who wish to pursue or recertify in careers in healthcare or biological sciences. The current curriculum is designed such that all AE/ESL students follow the same curriculum, with no consideration given to all of the career options available in healthcare at the college.