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