Thursday, July 30, 2009

Program gives at-risk students a jump on college

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager, 480.517.8472

When Eduardo Rodriguez graduates from Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe next year, he will walk away with more than his high school diploma. He will have earned college credits, too.

High school students earn college credit through dual enrollment or concurrent programs, but Eduardo took a different path. He participated in Rio Salado College’s ACE Puente Program.

“This is a good way to get a jump on my college career,” said Eduardo, who is planning to pursue a degree in business development. “I want to get my MBA, and this is giving me a great head start.”

Rio Salado College's ACE (Achieving a College Education) Puente Program recruits at-risk, financially disadvantaged, and first generation college students while they are in their sophomore year of high school. The participants begin taking classes in the summer before their junior year of high school, and they continue to take two courses every summer and one course during the fall and spring before graduating from high school. This allows students to earn up to 24 college credits by the time they graduate high school.

“The work can be difficult at times,” said Eduardo, who is among 33 students in the ACE Puente program. “It gives me the extra push I need to prepare for college, and I get a lot of support from the people in this program. [Bruno] Rhodes is always available to answer questions.”
According to Bruno Rhodes, Rio Salado ACE Puente coordinator, many of the students don’t have anyone at home when they have questions. The support the school offers is crucial to the students’ success.

“The students can get help from the teacher, the mentor they are pair with when they start the program, or other members of their cohort,” said Rhodes. “The majority of these students are the first people in their family to take college courses, so we provide a lot of support to ensure their success.”

According to Eduardo, the ACE Puente Program does more than teach the students general education lessons.

“I enjoy the independence I have with these classes, but that means I have more responsibility, too,” said Eduardo, who has been participating in an English class throughout the summer. “Besides building on my core classes, I am learning time management. And that is something you don’t learn in high school.”

For more information about Rio Salado College’s ACE Puente program, visit

Thursday, July 23, 2009

School of Dental Hygiene Accepting Applications

Rio Salado College is accepting applications for the dental hygiene program, for the February 2010 start date. The application period is from June 1 through September 1. Click here for more information.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Communiversity @ Surprise Opening on Aug. 3

Contact: David Staudacher, PR Manager, 480.517.8472

West Valley residents have a new option for obtaining affordable college degrees. On Monday, Aug. 3, the Communiversity @ Surprise, 15950 W. Civic Center Plaza, Surprise, is opening to the public for students to register for classes. Open houses also are slated for Tuesday, Aug. 18, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday Aug. 22 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Communiversity is a creative blend of community colleges and universities, which allow students to complete certificates, associate degrees, bachelor's degrees and master's degrees, in-person and/or online all in one location. Some programs allow students to earn up to 90 credits through the community college partners before transferring to a university partner for the remaining credits.

Along with host college Rio Salado, several institutions are providing classes and programs at the Communiversity. The partners include: Phoenix College, Glendale Community College, Ottawa University, the University of the Incarnate Word, Western International University and West-MEC.

"Students can save about 33 percent over the cost of a bachelor's degree from a traditional four-year university," said Todd Aakhus, director of Community Partnership Programs at Rio Salado College. "They can do it in a fraction of the time, too."

Students can choose from more than 40 degree programs through the Communiversity's educational pathways, which include: health care, education, business, information systems, public safety and liberal arts. Classes at the Communiversity will be available in-person and/or online.

For more information, visit

Monday, July 20, 2009

Offering the Incarcerated the Skills to Succeed

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager, 480.517.8472

Throughout life, we are taught to follow a straight and narrow path in the same way railroad tracks guide trains in the correct way to go. But not everyone chooses to follow the correct path, and when they stray, their lives can be as destructive as a train when it falls off the tracks.

For Lisa Main, choosing the stray path led her to ASPC-Perryville, a prison in Goodyear.
“I was arrested for forgery and sentenced to four years in prison,” said Main. “I made a mistake and had to pay.”

To get her life back on track, Main followed the advice of her fellow inmates and participated in the Workforce Development and Re-Entry program offered by Tempe-based Rio Salado College.
“I didn’t want to waste my time in prison, said Main. “I wanted to get my degree and see where I could take it. I took every class that was available.

“The program I was in had an emphasis on construction technology. “I completed classes in carpentry, electrical, plumbing, computer technology and maintenance, parenting at a distance, and earned a stack of certificates.”

To further compliment the students’ training, the partnership with the Arizona Correctional Industries places students in jobs while they are training.

“These programs have evolved from pen and paper to hands on training,” said Jo Jorgenson, dean of instruction at Rio Salado College. “Now, the students are reinforcing what they learn, while helping reduce costs at the facilities where they are incarcerated.”

It was during one of the hands-on training sessions that Main was presented with an opportunity that helped turn her life around even more.

“I was part of a crew that was remodeling [Rio Salado College’s] Hohokam building,” said Main. “I was told that there was a job opening at the school and that I should apply for the position. So I did. Then I was offered an interview, and four days after I got out of prison I started working for Rio Salado College.”

Securing a position with Rio Salado was not easy, but a couple of strong references gave her a boost. Instructor Earnie Atkins and Jorgenson recommend her for the position. These references, along with observing her work at Rio Salado helped her stand out from the rest of the applicants.

“I met Lisa through the prison program that was working for the college,” said Richard Espinoza, director of facilities at Rio Salado College. “I saw her work ethics, honesty and that she was a good person that got along with everyone. Now, she is an excellent employee and an asset to the college.”

With her past behind her, Main is excelling at work, enjoying life, and still concentrating on her education.

“Every day, we are helping to educate nearly 750 students at Perryville and nearly 300 at Lewis,” said Jorgenson. “Some students will earn certificates and others are earning associate degrees. What’s great is once they start college courses, they are hooked on education.”

Main is one of the students who got hooked on education. This past May, she completed her first associate degree and plans to continue taking college courses.

“This program completely changed my life for the better,” said Main. “I’m looking at taking more classes to earn another associate degree in organizational management, and then I plan to get my bachelor’s degree.”

Main is a great example of how education helped turn her life around. Seeing her succeed is why Rio Salado College has responded to an ongoing community need in its effort to make educational opportunities available to this population. By offering an education outlet, the incarcerated have an opportunity to get their lives on the right track when they are released from prison.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Nine fugitives sought in financial aid fraud scheme

Federal authorities are seeking nine fugitives for their alleged part of a scheme to defraud the U.S. Government out of more than a half-million dollars in student loans.

The nine people are James Barnes, Everett Black, Robert Harris, Angela Garcia, Kim Martin, Anthony Thomas, Dawn Standing Elk, Elayna Standing Elk and Fabien Zarate.

The scam allegedly was organized by Trenda Lynne Halton, of Peoria, who officials say solicited applications for student loans to attend Rio Salado College from people who had no intention of attending the school. Halton was arrested and released pending trial.

To date, 54 of the 65 defendants charged in the 130-count indictment have appeared in federal court. The final two defendants are expected to appear in court in the near future. Charges vary for each individual and include conspiracy, mail fraud, financial aid fraud and/or false statements in connection with financial aid.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Department of Education are asking the public’s assistance regarding the whereabouts of nine fugitives in this case. Anyone with information regarding the location of any of these fugitives is asked to contact Postal Inspector Greg Torbenson at 602-223-3256, Special Agent Adam Shanedling at 562-980-4136, or call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service toll free at 1-877-876-2455 (then select option 2.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rio Salado Awarded Grant to Help Retrain Boomers for Encore Careers

Rio Salado College was recently awarded a $25,000 grant to support a targeted retraining program aimed at adults over the age of 50 who are eager to prepare for new careers in education.

The grant, which was awarded from Civic Ventures and Metlife Foundation, allows Tempe-based Rio Salado to customize its online teacher certification programs for eligible adults, who are interested in re-careering and pursuing teaching positions in early childhood, elementary, secondary and special education.

“Many adults over the age of 50 are facing unemployment and depleted retirement funds,” said Kimberly Tobey, Rio Salado College’s community liaison director. “Now, they are turning to Rio Salado to retool their careers with a goal to combine meaningful work and income.”

Based on adults’ areas of interest, experience, educational backgrounds, and employment situations, candidates will be able to enroll in one of four online teacher certification programs.
The programs are:
  • Post Baccalaureate Teacher Prep for candidates who have a bachelor’s degree and may be working fulltime.
  • Teacher in Residence for candidates who have a bachelor’s degree and are working in the classroom while completing their teacher certification.
  • Teacher Education for candidates who do not have a college degree.
  • Troops to Teachers for military personnel transitioning from the military to second careers.
“This program will prepare future workers and fill the need for qualified teachers in high demand sectors,” said Tobey. “There is still need for teachers in Arizona’s rural areas and certain subject matters.”

Rio Salado was one of eight community colleges selected from a nationwide pool of 100 applicants and chosen for its innovative approach to matching boomer talent with social purpose jobs that fill specific local workforce needs.

Civic Ventures and MetLife Foundation launched the project to provide support to community colleges that are updating their offerings to help people over the age of 50 prepare for encore careers combining continued income, personal meaning, and social impact.

The grants were awarded to community colleges that are piloting, marketing or expanding courses to retrain boomers for jobs in education, social services, health care and, new this year, green jobs.

“Even in good economic times, it’s not easy to get from the end of a midlife career to the beginning of an encore career,” said Marc Freedman, CEO and founder of Civic Ventures. “In these tough times, community colleges are stepping up to provide a vital bridge to older job seekers who want work that means something to them and that matters to the world.”
Rio Salado College is developing an orientation video, which will be available to view online and in-person at the Rio Lifelong Learning Center in Surprise, the Tempe Public Library, and at additional locations throughout Maricopa County.

For more details about the Rio Salado College program and to inquire about enrolling, please contact Rio Salado’s Enrollment Services at 480.517.8580.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Preparing Students for Life After the Military

When someone’s military service is coming to an end, the question of “what’s next” starts to linger in the back of their mind. Since they’ve faced tougher situations, they tell themselves it will be an easy transition to handle. However, the anxiety tells them they are about to enter an entirely different, unfamiliar territory — civilian life.

While military instructors prepare people for military life, it is college instructors that will prepare people for careers after the military. Even after 30 years, or more, in the military, someone still has plenty of time to pursue a second career, and Rio Salado College is online and on site preparing students for these careers.

Tech. Sgt. Mitzi Eggers, of the 162nd fighter Wing in Tucson, is one of the many students who is preparing for a second career after she retires from the Air National Guard.
“I will earn a Level I Certificate of Completion in Chemical Dependency in November,” said Eggers, who also has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. “I have taken classes through two other colleges, but their Web sites didn’t function well as Rio Salado’s site, and there was very little support from the instructors.”

“Rio’s online courses are managed very well, it’s understandable, and there is plenty of instructor support,” she said. I’m very pleased with Rio Salado and plan to continue my schooling with them.”

The Certificate of Completion in Chemical Dependency Program prepares individuals with the skills necessary to become a chemical dependency case manager, as well as provide continuing education to current chemical dependency professionals. Level I courses focus on theories and techniques, ethics, communication skills, interviewing and documentation, and recovery and relapse.

Most military students have busy schedules and many students find online classes to be a good option for earning a degree. As a single mother with two toddlers Eggers definitely falls into this category.

“Between time at the air force base and caring for two children at home there is no room for classes at a traditional college,” said Eggers. “Students in the military don’t have as much free time as other people. Our schedules can be erratic, and we need the flexibility online classes offer us.”

Besides flexibility, military students can get their education nearly paid in full.
“The Air Force Tuition Assistance program pays 100 percent of an Airman’s tuition cost for college courses up to $4,500 per fiscal year,” said Bill Bristol, Rio Salado College’s coordinator of instructional programs at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale. “We provide students with information about financial aid and scholarship programs, too.”

“My only expenses are books and a $15 registration fee,” said Eggers. “Anyone can afford this, and everyone in the military should be taking advantage of this opportunity. The military prepares us for a lot, but there is a whole second life after the military to consider.”

Rio Salado 12th in USA for 2-year Certificates

According to Community College Week magazine, Rio Salado College ranks 12th in the nation in providing two-year certificates in all disciplines. In all, seven of the Maricopa Community Colleges ranked in the Top 100 associate degree and certificate producers for 2009. Read more.