Rachel Wall is the AmeriCorps*VISTA serving with the Connect to College Program at the Community College of Rhode Island. While originally from Massachusetts, Rachel has spent the last four years living in Rhode Island while studying Art History and Global Studies at Providence College. She joined AmeriCorps after graduating in order to become more intimately acquainted with the contemporary issues surrounding higher education, and also to gain experience with working in the nonprofit sector. Next year, Rachel hopes to pursue her doctorate in Cultural Anthropology. In her spare time, Rachel likes to watch movie trailers online and take naps.
- 220. 80%. 114. In the past six months, I have lived and breathed by numbers. In the initial cohort of Connect to College, we had 60 students participate, 80% of which must persist from their first into their second semester, according to the stipulations of our grant. Eighty percent, eight ought of ten. That might not seem like a lot, but when the average rate of persistence is considered, 46.2%, it becomes a mountain. Numbers. Occasionally I take a brief respite and focus on programmatic activities such as planning an orientation or workshop, but even then the numbers are not far from my mind.
Connect to College is a student support service that has created a community of scholars with the intention of systematically changing the way students connect at the Community College of Rhode Island. In order to join, students must be low income, from an underserved population, or first generation (typically students are at least two or even all three). Even though CCRI has an open enrollment policy, the decision to register for classes can be an insurmountable obstacle in the first place. In the months that our program has been assisting students, we have encountered situations in which teenagers are main contributor to the family finances, individuals take hours community to and from campus each day on public transportation, and young single women are pursuing school while raising children and holding at least two other jobs. All too often, students are facing these difficulties with no support system dedicated to their academic success. That is where we, the coordinators and program staff of C2C, try and fill a void by providing academic, financial, and emotional support.
The key to my continued enthusiasm for the work I do has been learning to see a number and equate it with a human face, a human outcome translatable into a story. The other day I looked at my records and smiled at a new number-114. This is the number of students that have joined Connect to College in the past five months, putting us well on the way to achieving our target of 220 students. Now that the numbers are secure I can take a rest, take a breath and focus on the people this program is serving rather than the numbers that we are attaining.