CAP helps students dive into college

The free program at SFCC teaches students basic academics and college survival skills.

Published: Monday, August 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 1, 2005 at 12:34 a.m.

Sophia Jenkins hasn't slept past 8 a.m. in five weeks.

She studies math, English and reading in the morning and works in the afternoon.

With no time for trips to the beach or the mall, it sounds like this 18-year-old's summer vacation went horribly wrong.

Just don't tell her that.

"I've been given a wonderful opportunity to develop a career, possibly earn money for college and learn skills I'll need for the rest of my life," she said.

Jenkins is one of 54 students in the College Achievement Program (CAP) at Santa Fe Community College, a free program that teaches high school graduates basic math, English and college survival skills.

The six-week summer program works with students in Alachua and Bradford counties who are heading for SFCC in the fall and are "under-represented in the college environment," said Elizabeth O'Reggio, director of Santa Fe's Office of Diversity and CAP.

O'Reggio said there can be a variety of reasons a community college student might be considered "under-represented."

Often, they are minorities, students with financial needs, persons with disabilities or first-generation Americans, she said.

Survival skills

CAP, which started in 1984, focuses on giving them skills they will need to earn a degree in college, which will in turn help them achieve their career goals, she explained.

"We want to give them an edge by exposing them to the college environment and providing for a smoother transition to Santa Fe," she said.

The students brush up on their English, math and reading comprehension, which are the basic skills required for every career path, she said, but the most important part of the program for the incoming students is the college survival skills.

With lessons on test anxiety, time management and study skills, college becomes less scary, she said. The faculty also added a course in etiquette this year to help students understand how to interact with other students, professors and future employers.

"Many of the new students will be surprised at the tools they need that they didn't get in high school," O'Reggio said.

High school guidance counselors inform seniors of the program and line up interviews with SFCC faculty for students who would benefit from CAP.

Ralph Aiello, a guidance counselor at Santa Fe High School, said he recommends the program to any student who is targeted as unlikely to get a degree.

"Many students go to community college just thinking it's going to be the 13th grade," he said. "They might not have excelled in high school, and they head off to community college just because they think they should, but many are unaware of the work it takes."

CAP also offers something high schools do not have, Aiello said.

They teach them how to "navigate through college by giving them advice on what courses to take and how to earn a major," because they know how the college system works, he said.

The students also have a chance to earn several scholarships awarded during CAP's graduation ceremony on August 15, 2005.

The scholarships are based on overall performance and not financial need, O'Reggio said.

Constance Scott, a 19-year-old CAP student, said she's keeping her fingers crossed in hopes of winning the money.

However, the music education major said she got what she came for, scholarship or no scholarship.

"I would have been totally lost without this," she said.

"This is the first time I've understood things like grammar and math. They went to the bottom and worked their way up with us. Now I'm ready for college."

Language is key

Iris Rose Hart, an English professor and senior faculty member for CAP, said teaching the students about language and communication skills can only help launch their careers at SFCC.

"Everything - all classes, all work - needs language," she said, "and for students to have success, they need to be able to handle the language by reading and writing and speaking."

While many of the students may start CAP behind in several academic areas, they leave prepared for the fall semester because of the intensive nature of the six-week course, she said.

They take classes from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and participate in a "learning community," or a study session of their peers, professors and tutors, from 1:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

While some students struggle with academics, others might only need a confidence boost to survive on a college campus, said Deatra Spratling, the CAP reading instructor and an Alachua County teacher.

"Many of them are reluctant to venture out in college, but we try to build up their confidence so they have what it takes to succeed academically," she said. "We teach them to listen, take notes, use their notes, and if they don't understand something, we get that little, shy person to go ask for help and use the resources we have here at Santa Fe."

CAP and student resources are all provided for by the college, with students only having to pay-up their dwindling hours of summer vacation, Director O'Reggio said.

Trey Rapczak, an 18-year-old CAP enthusiast, said all the advice the program gave was worth every minute of his summer, though. "I can't believe how much I've loved it," he said. "They've helped us prepare for everything we'll find in college - social issues, academic problems, friends and relationships. I can't believe how much useful information I've gotten."

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