Students in the College Kids program offered by Three Rivers College and the Boys & Girls Club of the Heartland are recruited from Poplar Bluff High School and Neelyville High School to take two courses – one in the fall semester and one in the spring – to learn computer literacy and life skills while getting a sample of college life.
The Boys & Girls Club of Heartland and Three Rivers College reported significant growth and a bright future for the College Kids program.
Opened in 2018, the program brings high school students to the main TRC campus to get a taste of college courses, teach them life strategies, and prepare them for their next steps in education.
Chris Rushin, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Heartland, said the impetus for the collaboration was to help teens understand that college and vocational training are achievable goals and to leverage the TRC as a resource. .
“We have an incredible resource in our own backyard at Three Rivers College, and for some of our kids, college might as well be a million miles away in how they don’t perceive they can become students. “, Rushin mentioned.
The program consists of two courses, one in the fall and one in the spring. The fall semester Academic Life Strategies course focuses on building academic skills such as budgeting, testing, note-taking, and interpersonal communication. In the spring computing course, students learn to master common digital tools, including the Microsoft Office suite.
College Kids is open to students in grades 10-12 and costs students nothing. Round-trip transportation between TRC and the Neelyville and Poplar Bluff campuses is provided.
According to the club’s executive director, Robbie Toth, trying college for free helps high school students achieve what they want. Not every student decides that college is right for them, but the purpose of the program is to prepare for the next steps in life, whether that be graduate school or pursuing vocational and technical studies.
“If they want to go to college, we will help them get there. If college isn’t their thing, we want to try to get them into whatever career path they want,” Toth said.
In 2019, College Kids was recognized as the Missouri Program of the Year by the Missouri Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs. At that time, enrollment was consistently lower than Rushin had hoped. He enlisted Toth to help turn things around. Toth has been with the Boys & Girls Club for 15 years and some high school students have known her since kindergarten. Explaining the program in person to students made a big difference. At the time of this article, 32 students have enrolled in the spring semester, surpassing their goal of 25. Positive reviews from other students are also convincing teens to enroll.
“It’s great to hear from kids like that, who were hesitant to go to college or even try college…really enjoying it,” Toth said.
College Kids builds high school students’ confidence in higher education. Some students who now want to go to college will be the first generation in their family to do so – and parents are thrilled too.
“Parents see this as a great opportunity to give their child a chance for that college experience,” she said.
PBHS has strengthened its ties with TRC through subsidized dual-credit courses, and the partnership with TRC and Boys & Girls Club is part of its goal to encourage students to pursue higher education, according to the superintendent, the Dr. Scott Dill. Sophomore PBHS participants can even use the course as a stepping stone to taking dual-credit college courses as juniors.
“It must be nice when you open a student’s eyes to those possibilities and paths they might not have considered before, at no cost to themselves or their family,” he said. declared.
Neelyville Superintendent Debra Parish also praised the program.
“They are very excited about this opportunity…The impact this has on their mental awareness, that college can be in their future, is a wonderful and huge benefit to them,” he said. she declared.
Going forward, she added, the school wants to find ways to include students involved in extracurricular activities so that their schedules don’t prohibit their participation.
Leslie Gragg is chair of the science, math, and social studies department at TRC and helps facilitate College Kids. She is excited to continue and expand the program.
“We hope to continue to develop this program for College Kids and expand to offer more classes,” Gragg said. “We are now working with the Boys and Girls Club to map out what it looks like and provide even more opportunities for these students so that we can offer classes to not only build their confidence and skills as they enter the university, but also to offer courses in their interests and in the paths they wish to pursue when they become students.
The Boys & Girls Club of the Heartland’s goal going forward will be to continue to grow College Kids. Rushin alluded to the potential for integrating workforce development programs.
“We’re also going to have some more exciting announcements in the very near future,” he said.
More information about College Kids is available at bgcpb.org or by calling the Boys & Girls Club of the Heartland at 573-776-1690.