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PCC panel tackles reengaging young people in education
Photos and Story by Abe Proctor
There are many factors – economic, familial, social – that can lead to a young person dropping out of the educational system. Convincing them to reengage with the system and resume their studies is one of the foremost challenges facing educators today – particularly where students from traditionally underrepresented populations are concerned.
The issue of reengagement was front at center at Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus in May for a panel discussion of the new book “Reengagement: Bring Students Back to America’s Schools” by Andrew O. Moore.
“The notion of intentional reengagement is gaining traction all over the country, but the movement needed a springboard,” Moore said. “That’s the impetus for this book.”
Several of the book’s contributors were also on hand, including PCC’s Director of Alternative Programs Pamela Blumenthal and Carla Gay of Portland Public Schools. The discussion ranged from the national reengagement landscape to specific initiatives under way in the Northwest. A recurring theme was the need for a more integrated and coordinated approach to reengagement across the country.
“We only know the tip of the iceberg,” Moore noted. “There’s so much more going on than people know, even those of us who are working full-time on reengagement.”
Community colleges like PCC are an increasingly important part of the reengagement conversation, Moore said, because they are the point of entry into higher education with the fewest barriers to access. Many community colleges also offer a single location at which students can both work toward a GED and begin their college-level studies.
But nowhere, the panelists stated, is the need for reengagement greater than in communities of color and other traditionally underserved populations.
“Before there is a need for re-engagement, there’s a problem with engagement,” Gay said. “Students of color disengage because they don’t feel acknowledged and respected. Reengagement is the institution of education saying, ‘We screwed up,’ and finding other ways to help students reach their goals.”
Blumenthal observed that PCC’s two principal reengagement programs, Gateway to College and Yes to College, have been particularly successful because they engage students on a college campus, thereby removing an often-significant psychological barrier.
“PCC’s programs in particular work for students because actually being on a college campus can have a positive effect,” Blumenthal said. “Students may have been told that they’re not college material, that they don’t belong in higher education. When they come to PCC, they’re at college, and we emphasize that. Our courses are attuned to what they need. Students feel supported, and they realize that they really do belong in college.”
For more information about the Gateway to College and Yes to College programs, call (971) 722-6293 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.