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