Monday, May 19, 2008

The Next Step makes college possible for students

Three organizations have teamed up to make the next step on to college possible for selected high school students.
In partnership with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Northwest Valley Branch and the Dysart Unified School District, the Rio Salado College Lifelong Learning Center has started the Next Step mentoring program for female students.
The program matched 30 sophomore girls from three different high schools with mentors from the AAUW, an organization advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education and research. The mentors are women with associate or bachelor’s degrees that will to help guide the students on their way to college.
The Next Step kicked off earlier this month at the Lifelong Learning Center. The day featured students and mentors meeting, an introduction to college services like financial aid and advisement, a tour of the college campus and a keynote address by Anna Maria Chavez, the deputy chief of staff for urban relations and community development for the office of Gov. Janet Napolitano.
In addition to having personal contact throughout their high school career, the students and mentors will come together seven times over the next year for special group activities sponsored by the Rio Salado Lifelong Learning Center and the Dysart district. Each event will feature a ‘Successful Woman’ speaker and expose students to nontraditional career opportunities for women.
“This program is centered on providing enriching student experiences in support of higher education and intergenerational learning and will positively impact their success in college,” said Todd Aakhus, director of the Rio Salado College Lifelong Learning Center.
The university mentors believe it is a valuable partnership.
“In keeping with the AAUW’s national goal of furthering education for women, what better project could we have done than to work with young women in our own community to help them reach their educational and career goals,” said Dr. Jan Sodos, AAUW co-chair of the Next Step.
AAUW member Dr. Sue Lundin of Sun City will mentor Sundown Mountain student Desirae Gonzales, 17, and 15-year-old Eizel Gomba, who attends Valley Vista High School in Surprise. A retired school administrator, Lundin is looking forward to the opportunity to work with students again.
“There are a lot of kids who don’t know how to access college, and I was one of them. When they explained this program to me, I thought it was a perfect way to give back and help someone the way I was helped,” she said.
Like the two girls she’ll be mentoring, Lundin was the first in her family to go to college.
Through the program students will learn about planning for college academically and financially and experience a range of college courses, including dual enrollment courses. With dual enrollment students earn Rio Salado College credit for courses offered at their high school.
The information she learned about college and meeting her mentor made her even more determined to go to college, said Gomba.
“I’m so excited about college—I feel like going right now!” she said.
Rio Salado has 450 online classes with start dates every Monday. The college offers degrees and certificates in business, education, health care, law enforcement and more. For more information call 480-517-8450 or visit

New job has unexpected bonus, college education

Arizona DES, Rio Salado College team up

When Lovette Donaldson started her new job she didn’t know she’d be getting an education too.
On Wednesday, Donaldson received her certificate of completion in Human Services-Assistance: Customer Service from Rio Salado College along with 3580 certificate completers. Her certificate’s a product of a unique partnership between the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) her employer and Rio Salado College.

The industry specific training providing college credit is offered to new DES employees to help improve job their job performance. Donaldson earned 18 college credits in the program.
Donaldson was thrilled with the training and the chance to earn some college credit.
“I think it was a great opportunity for us. And it’s a grand statement about DES and how they want their employees really educated about the services we provide for the public,” said Donaldson.

Earning a college degree has been a long time dream for Donaldson. She started community college in Washington State soon after she graduated from high school but had to quit 18 months later and go to work. Her new certificate has given her the push to go on and finish her degree. Many of those who are enrolled in the program go on and finish a college degree at Rio Salado, earning an associate in arts or science.

“I haven’t been to school since I was 18. At 39 years of age I am finally able to get back in school,” said Donaldson who plans to take as many classes as she can at Rio Salado and then transfer to Arizona State University to finish a bachelor’s degree in communications.
Class for Donaldson and her co-workers included eight weeks of training eight hours a day.
“It really shows they are striving for excellence to write college courses for their own employees,” said Donaldson.

“The long standing partnership between DES and Rio Salado college has been assisting employees continue their education since 1994. The inspiring stories at graduation are a true testimonial of how beneficial our partnerships are to both the employees and the organization,” said Susan Lawrence, Rio Salado Manager of Corporate and Government Programs.
Her newly earned college credits have also made her a role model for her three children. Her daughter Ro-jeah, 15, is a sophomore at McClintock High School and she has two sons Elisha, 11, and Edward, 8.

“It’s been very inspiring for my daughter to watch me go back to school,” said Donaldson.
Partnering with the community has been a goal for Rio Salado since it opened its doors in 1978, said Rio Salado Vice President Chris Bustamante. Currently, Rio Salado has more than 40 corporate and government organizations it partners with.

Many classes are in-person but several companies have with the help of Rio Salado course support have been able to put their training online. The online courses have been found to be cost-effective and convenient, said Karen Stigers director of corporate and government programs.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

GED diploma fulfills dream of graduate, 73

It’s taken 57 years but Drusilla Chilton, 93, will finally see her son David, 73, receive his high school diploma.

Tuesday night, Chilton along with more than 300 students will receive their GED’s (high school equivalency diploma) from Rio Salado College. The graduation celebration, the biggest GED ceremony in the state, will be held at the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix.

It’s been a long road for Chilton. The son of a traveling minister, Chilton was always changing schools as his family traveled from town to town. After graduating from the 8th grade, Chilton left school and began working for Western Union delivering telegrams on his bicycle.
“I dreamed for years of going back to school. It was always haunting me,” said Chilton.
But facing a 21st century classroom after more than five decades away was a daunting task.
“The first day of school I was really nervous. They gave me an evaluation test that I got half through. I left in my car and cried all the way home,” said Chilton.

Chilton spent 18 months working four or five hours a day in class.
“I didn’t realize how long it would take me or how difficult it would be,” said Chilton.
Chilton admits the well-earned slip of paper has made a big difference in his life including boosting his self-confidence enough to tackle college classes at Gateway where he has earned a caregiver certificate. Currently he’s in the process of finding a job with his newly found skills.
“I am really happy I did it,” said Chilton.

A boost in self-confidence is typical of those earning their GED, said Miranda L. Lopez, Director of Adult Education.
They get so much confidence out of this. It motivates them and makes them think Oh yes, I can do this,” said Lopez.

Students are told the program is the first step in their educational future. Along with learning to read and do math, GED students, through the transition program, receive information and awareness for those who want to continue their education. Information on college degrees, classes, financial aid and tours of the college campus are included in the transition program workshops.
While many students continue on into college from the program others taking GED classes focus on improving their workforce skills and still others use the classes to improve career prospects, said Lopez.

Classes are self-paced. Instructors work with students to identify their individual learning goals and to develop plans to reach those goals.
Rio Salado began offering GED classes in 1979 with just 700 students. Today, as the state’s largest provider of Adult Basic Education classes nearly 10,000 students are enrolled annually. For more information about free GED or ABE classes call (480) 517-8110 or (480) 377-4050 or visit

Locations for ABE enrollment:

Rio East Valley: 1455 South Stapley Drive, Suite 15Mesa, AZ 85204(just north of the Superstition Freeway)
Rio North - Paradise Valley: 4550 East Cactus RoadPhoenix, AZ 85032(above the food court at Paradise Valley Mall)
Rio 7th Avenue: 619 North 7th AvenuePhoenix, AZ 85007(just south of I-10)
Scottsdale Adult Learning Center: 1170 North 86th WayScottsdale, AZ 85257(old Apache Park School)
Rio Salado College Lifelong Learning Center12535 Smokey DriveSurprise, AZ 85374(just south of Bell Road)
Orangewood Nazarene Church: 2804 W. Orangewood
Phoenix AZ 85051
Rio Ann Ott Learning Center
1801 S. 12th Street
Phoenix AZ
(south of Mojave, at Apache and 12th St)

Graduation set for May 7

This week Fountain Hills resident Dawn Beck will be one step closer to fulfilling her dream of becoming a marriage and family therapist.

A high school dropout, Beck will graduate from Rio Salado College May 7 after being out of school for 12 years. So driven to succeed, the determined stay-at-home mom of two managed to rack up 53 credits in just nine months to complete her Associate of Arts degree. She is now attending Grand Canyon University as a psychology major and plans to earn a Master’s degree in order to become a family therapist.

A member of Phi Theta Kappa (the international honor society for two-year colleges) and the Dean’s Honor Roll, Beck is one of two student speakers chosen to address Rio Salado graduates Wednesday night. The ceremony will take place at the Orpheum Theater, 203 W. Adams St. in Phoenix, and begins at 7:00 p.m. Students earning their G.E.D. (high school equivalency diploma) will be honored in a ceremony on May 6.

This year there will be 377 Rio Salado students earning their associate degrees, as well as 3,580 students receiving certificates of completion for a variety of programs.

Earning a college degree has been a long and challenging road for Beck. Dropping out of high school at 17, Beck worked at a series of low paying, dead end jobs before realizing she needed to do something good with her life that she could be proud of. In the spring of 2007 she registered at Rio Salado College and began taking as many online classes as she could handle while being a wife and mother to an active four year old and one-year old. In the fall she petitioned the college to take a whopping 23 credits eager to begin work on her bachelor’s degree. (Anything above 12 credits is considered full-time).
She calls her graduation one her life’s biggest achievements.

“I am still amazed that this high school dropout was able to turn her life around. I refused to allow anything to hold me back from my goals,” said Beck.

Rio Salado’s commencement theme, ‘Sustain Your Momentum’, encourages students to continue to pursue their dreams after college. With her focus on earning a Master’s degree, Beck says family support was a crucial component to her sustaining her momentum and reaching her goal.
“I would never have been able to reach my goal of graduation without the loving and positive support from my family. My wonderful husband of ten years Brian was the main reason I was able to accomplish so much at Rio Salado,” she said.

For more information about Rio Salado Commencement or the G.E.D. graduation, visit Salado College offers more than 450 online courses. One of the ten Maricopa Community Colleges, tuition at Rio Salado College is $65 a credit. The college offers degrees and certificates in business, education, healthcare, law enforcement and more.

Math classes include online tutoring lab

MyMathLab part of Rio Salado math classes.

“Remember sitting in math class completely lost wishing your instructor would slow down or start over.

Imagine if your instructor came with a pause or rewind button.

Guess what, at Rio Salado College online math classes do. The classes include a state-of-art program called MyMathLab. In MyMathLab, students stymied by an abstract concept can hear the video explanation again and again and even pause the program to improve understanding.
The program includes numerous ways to get help, said Rio Salado Math Faculty Chair John Jensen. The resources are very complete, as they contain thousands of videos, sample exercises and many different ways to review and practice.

Donna Hazlewood, 47, hadn’t taken a math class for more than 20 years when she started back to school taking her prerequisites for nursing. Since that time she’s taken three online math classes using MyMathLab and has become a fan of the online tutoring program.
“I have learned a lot. It walks me through the steps so I can learn how to do the problems. So far I am doing pretty well,” said Hazlewood.

At Rio Salado all math classes from the very basic arithmetic to the challenging calculus include an online textbook complete with MyMathLab, the online tutoring lab.
Intriguing lectures captured on video, and concise and clear demonstrations and appealing practice tests make solving equations painless.

Initially Rio Salado college algebra student Mary Echtinaw called her instructor to drop the class. But with a few pointers from the instructor on how to use MyMathLab she’s sailing through quadratic equations, logarithms and rational exponents.
“MyMathLab was excellent. It taught me more than I would have ever learned in class,” said Echtinaw, who is working on earning a business degree.

“I really liked the problem simulation and you know immediately if you got it right,” said Echtinaw.

Need help with the concept of real numbers? Click on a short video clip. Still fuzzy about the concept? Click on the demonstration and watch the online computer screen flash through the problem. Ready to solve the problem? Click on a practice problem and get immediate feedback.
With the online format unlike the in-person class, students set the pace, not the teacher.
“You can control what’s going on in the lecture environment. Students can really solidify and review the content before taking an exam,” said Jensen.

One of the biggest advantages of taking the online math classes is the convenience and flexibility.
Hazlewood, a paramedic in Camp Verde, wouldn’t be in college without the online format.
“One of the main reasons I take online is there is no school near me. The closest school is Prescott plus I have a family and I work quite a lot. This is the only way to do it on my schedule,” said Hazelwood.

Echtinaw works full-time and has two daughters, 12 and nine months. Online classes have worked out well.

Rio Salado offers 15 math classes from basic arithmetic MAT082 to MAT241 –Calculus III. More than 5,000 students are enrolled in the classes. Classes start every Monday. For registration or more information call 480-517-8540 or go to