For decades, a few select Atterbury Job Corps students have had the opportunity to pursue their higher education dreams at Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus.
Currently, up to 12 students participate in the Advanced Career Training (ACT) program — a Department of Labor program that provides job training for low income students — offered through Atterbury Job Corps. Students are selected based on successful completion of the Job Corps program and academic achievement. In partnership with Ivy Tech, students are able complete a technical certificate and/or an associate degree.
By 7:15 each morning, the ACT students leave the Atterbury center, bound for Ivy Tech, to attend class, study and work. Many times, these students do not return to Atterbury until after 10 p.m. While only 12 students are involved in the program, they are a vital part of the Ivy Tech community. For example, you can find Mohamed Mohamed (a general studies student) working in the library between his 18-hour class load and studying to maintain his 4.0 GPA.
Melody Howard, “Momma Mel,” can typically be found in the library, studying or mentoring the other ACT students. Sirena Mireles, a criminal justice major, was usually hard at work on her laptop last semester in the Poling Hall commons area. Devon Clark, a pre-dentistry major, would hang out in the chairs by the bookstore, studying between classes.
In some ways, the ACT students face unique challenges that other Ivy Tech students do not face.
They have limited transportation, live three to four hours away from home and have grown up in a different culture.
In other ways, they face the same challenges. For example, many of the students in this program are first-generation college students. As a first-generation college student myself, I realize the challenges can be overwhelming. As a result, some students are determined and driven; others need and look for reassurance.
These students, like their other Ivy Tech classmates, are not only changing their lives but also building a legacy for the next generation.
As an educator, I must always remember that students are always learning much more than just the subject at hand. In reality, students are learning at a much deeper level, a level that we often do not realize. They are making subtle changes to move away from the past and step into their future. They are learning how to learn, work independently, multitask, focus, integrate information and think critically.
They are building the foundation for their future success as well as for the future generations of their families.
Both Ivy Tech and Atterbury Job Corps focus on changing the lives of their students to provide them the opportunity for a better future. The partnership between Ivy Tech and Atterbury Job Corps provides a unique opportunity for the ACT students to realize their dreams — whether to enter the workforce, to enlist in the military or to transfer to four year-degrees.
Stephanie Vertrees is an adjunct faculty member in liberal arts at Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus and the ACT coordinator for Atterbury Job Corps.