Image by Jorge Vargas

Jorge Vargas| Staff Writer

Every student at Century College shares a unique story of the circumstances that led to this institution. Whether the story is glamorous or simple in nature, whether returning to school after 30 years, or enrolled after travelling over 6000 miles from Tajikistan, or having simply walked in one day curious to see what college life was about everyone followed a unique path or perhaps unique advice from family, mentors or professors.

This however is the story of the younger generation that will walk the hallways of the Nest long after we are gone. They’re the middle school students of the R U Ready and Avid programs. They’re the future.

It was just another day at Century College. Students hung around, laughed and nonchalantly went through their day as usual. However, a curious group of unusually young students led by our newly appointed chief diversity officer Nickyia Cogshell soon interrupted the normality of the day. They received an unusual amount of gazes from current students; it was not every day that students this young walked the hallways. “This is the Nest where multiple events are held by a wide variety of student clubs,” Mrs. Cogshell explained to the students. The tour moved on, however not before multiple Century College students high-fived every single one of them.

The visit remained an adorable surprise for many current students; others shared with melancholy that the young students reminded them of their younger self; still others more sarcastically commented on the possibility of Century becoming a day care center. Regardless of opinion, the visit of the students sparked a considerable amount of curiosity among the current Century student population only to increase as many other similar groups toured the halls of Century College throughout the week.

Groups that visited campus turned out to be from various institutions in the immediate vicinity of Century College. Some were from Battle Creek Middle School and are part of either the RUReady or the AVID program (Advancement Via Individual Determination) which in direct collaboration with Century’s College Access & Opportunity Center concentrate on helping low income, struggling student as well as underrepresented and other minority students to further continue their education after high school. The programs are in charge of preparing young students as well as introducing them to campus and college life. Most importantly, they’re designed to show how unintimidating the experience is and how anyone can readily attend college. Students are introduced to the wide variety of financial assistance opportunities from federal/state aid to scholarships and grants. They also learn the difference between what a two-year and four-year college can offer.

“Officially what they do is come to the campus and get an opportunity to tour the campus and unlike a traditional campus tour, they get an opportunity to interact with our faculty members in some significant way,” said Mrs. Cogshell. During their visit, the young students reportedly participated in several activities with Student Life Director of Intramurals & Recreation Matt Ruhland and with a wide variety of other faculty members from the Biology and Science department. On other occasions, students are given the opportunity to explore and participate with other faculty from more hands-on learning programs such as nursing, x- ray technology, auto mechanical and even the engineering department at the Century College FabLab. “The idea behind these experiences is to demonstrate to students that these are the programs and certificates available. Our goal is to increase the likelihood of college attendance as the progress and eventually graduate from high school.”

Research shows that the earlier students are exposed to the possibility of college the more likely it is that it becomes a reality but most importantly a feasible and desirable goal in the student life rather than remaining a far possibility on the horizon. It may also help students overcome the various identity challenges they face when presented with college life. Many of these students have no previous experience with college as none of their family members has attended a post-secondary institution, so there may be a lot of questions or concerns. “Students may also not be getting As or Bs and yet they do exhibit college potential,” Mrs. Cogshell explained. “It is believed that by fostering the idea that college is possible while presenting the student with the nearly unlimited resources available at their hands they’re affirmed and essentially given the opportunity to be successful in College.”

Students participating in these trips respond incredibly well. Many can’t help but feel excited and eager to learn what’s after high school. They’re also surprised by the size of the campus and at the simplicity of enrollment procedures. Many also felt incredibly welcome with some students commenting on how intimidating it seemed at first. Visiting students looked up to the Century College students they encountered at the Nest and were able to identify with them. On another occasion, a group of visiting students even began dancing to the latest fad of music with various members of the recently formed Free Style Dancing Club.

“These experiences and perceptions can have an everlasting effect on the younger generations,” Jason Cardinal Dean of student services explained. These are just some of the multiple initiatives Century College sponsors to name just a few. “It is to show Century College’s commitment to the younger generation and pretty much everyone else interested in college.” Mr. Cardinal concluded.

Whether a public relations campaign to attract the most students or proof of genuine intent to achieve the highest diversity as well as highest student performance, we have to thank the educators who develop these programs not only to benefit the school but mainly for the benefit of the future generations of our community and ultimately our state. After all the kids are the future and with but a little push it is evident they are able to achieve anything.