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First-year students make the transition to college with Cuyamaca Link

Posted on: Oct 18, 2010 1:00:00 AM
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Contact: Anne Kruger

First-year students make the transition to college with Cuyamaca Link 

RANCHO SAN DIEGO – Even before they started attending Cuyamaca College this fall, about 450 students from five East County high schools got help in making the transition to college through a program known as Cuyamaca Link.

The students who participate in the program are assessed in high school to determine their level of readiness for college math and English courses. They get priority registration at Cuyamaca, and they’re placed in the appropriate math and English classes based on the results of their assessment. Jesus Miranda, an assistant professor and counselor who oversees the program, said it helps ensure students will succeed in college.

“We want them well-prepared,” he said. “We want them to be prepared for the next level.”

Jonathan Mortimer, an 18-year-old first-year student, said starting at Cuyamaca after graduating from Valhalla High School in Rancho San Diego wasn’t as intimidating because he participated in Cuyamaca Link.

“Coming through Link was a weight off my shoulders,” he said. “Because of Link, I got into the classes I needed to.”

The program started in fall 2009 with 304 students from Valhalla, Granite Hills, Mount Miguel and Monte Vista High Schools in East County. Steele Canyon High School was added this year, and the program is maxed out at 449 students.

Robert Garber, interim president of Cuyamaca College, said Cuyamaca Link provides a sense of comfort and safety for new college students.  “It supports students so they have the best chance of success in college,” he said.

Students and their parents who are participating in Cuyamaca Link must sign a contract agreeing to attend an orientation session, take the assessment tests, and register for the appropriate classes. They also must sign up for a personal development counseling class that helps students adjust to life on a college campus.

Miranda said Cuyamaca Link students are limited to 15 class units per semester in their first year to prevent them from overloading themselves. In exchange for participating in the program, Miranda said he works closely with the students to ensure they are meeting their education and career goals while at Cuyamaca College.

“I have an open door policy with them,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re taking care of what needs to be taken care of. We’re making an agreement. If you do your part, then we will do our part.”

The program has gotten a positive response from students. Seventy-eight percent of those who participated last year said they found Cuyamaca Link to be helpful to them. A study of the first group of students showed 71 percent got an “A,” “B,” or “C” in their classes, compared to 64 percent of students not in Cuyamaca Link. The grade point average for Cuyamaca Link students in spring 2010 was 2.54, compared to 2.44 for non-Link students.

“We want our students to be successful,” Miranda said.

Bill Garrett, president of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District board, was impressed by the program after seeing a presentation at a recent board meeting.

“Students are getting individual attention,” he said. “They’re seeing that people care about them.”

For more information about the colleges and the district, go to www.gcccd.edu.

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