Sylvania programs give students needed boost toward life goals
Photos and Story by Stephan Herrera
Navigating any college system can a be daunting task for students. A student’s success depends on their ability to access college resources. Research shows that students who are actively involved on campus tend to be more successful and more satisfied with their overall education experience. Student development programs not only contributes to the success of students. They also positively impact the lives of students at PCC.
Just ask former PCC student Shelly Smith. After two unsuccessful attempts at college and with only six weeks of sobriety under her belt, Smith said, “This time is going to be different.”
In the fall of 2011, Smith returned to the Sylvania Campus to restart her college journey. It was at this point where she set forth to attain a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Smith admits that this new journey was not without its challenges. She credits a large part of her success to overcoming those challenges and participating in the college’s ROOTS Program. This program assists low income, first generation students and students with disabilities in staying in school and helps them go on to transfer to other colleges or universities after graduating from PCC.
Through the ROOTS Program, Smith was able to access resources, establish relationships with her instructors, and build community on campus. Now at Portland State University, she was recently awarded the Ford Restart Scholarship through the Ford Family Foundation. A program of the Ford Family Foundation, the Ford ReStart Program is a need-based scholarship that was created to encourage adults aged 25 or older to begin or return to full-time post-secondary education to earn a certificate or degree at an eligible college. Although her experience at Portland State is different, Smith is prepared and has the tools to succeed in large part from her great experience at Sylvania.
Another student development program that positively impacts the lives of students at PCC is the Illumination Project. The Illumination Project is an innovative student leadership and education program designed to foster a climate of equality, compassion, justice, and respect for all people in the PCC academic community and the community-at-large.
Camila Mancia credits her deep investment in her academic journey to participation in the Illumination Project. Mancia began her academic journey at the Sylvania Campus in fall of 2009. Being a first generation college student with a learning disability, Mancia found college to be a very foreign experience. Not knowing where or who to turn to for support made her first year at PCC a challenge. After seeing a poster on campus, Mancia applied and was accepted as a participant for the 2009-2010 academic year.
“My participation in the Illumination Project opened my eyes to a lot of things that I never realized – such as racism, sexism, and homophobia,” said Mancia. “I feel much more invested in my education.”
The following academic year, Mancia was hired as the assistant coordinator with the Illumination Project. As a result, she has become more active in her community. When she is not in class or studying, she spends her time raising money for various non-profit organizations in Portland through her involvement in the Imperial Sovereign Rose Court of Oregon. Like Smith, Mancia is also working toward a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and is co-enrolled at Portland State University and PCC.
“Before attending PCC, I had no idea what my passion was and now I do!” said Mancia.
After being laid off from his job at Comp USA in 2003, Robert Straker decided that it was time to focus on building a career. It was then that Straker decided to begin his academic journey. He actually started out at Clackamas Community College and transferred to PCC in the spring of 2007. Determined to obtain his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Robert earned all A’s his first term at Sylvania. During Straker’s first term at PCC, he also applied and was accepted to the ROOTS Program. It was there that he received additional tutoring support, academic advising, and opportunities to meet and build community with other students.
Like a lot of students at PCC, being able to cover the costs of college was a challenge for Straker. Through his participation in the Roots Program, Straker was assigned an academic advisor who encouraged him to apply for scholarships. With help from writing tutors, he applied and was awarded the John R Olson Memorial and the Service to Community scholarships through the PCC Foundation. Straker also joined the Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society. He said this is what opened the door to additional scholarships that have supported his academic journey thus far. Similar to Mancia’s experience, Straker’s engagement and participation in student development programs at Sylvania inspired him to volunteer and become more active in his community.
When he was asked what his most favorite thing about being a student at Sylvania was he expressed that, “the administration, instructors, and tutors treated me with as much respect, if not more than the younger students. They didn’t make me feel any less of a person because I was an older college student.”