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California Connects Teams Up with Community Colleges to Help PCC Students Succeed

Laptop computers, Microsoft certification, and digital literacy training are aimed to serve as trainers for the students' families and other community members

Published on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 | 8:33 pm

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office has teamed up with the California Connects Program to provide Pasadena City College’s Mathematics, Engineering, Science, and Achievement (MESA) students with laptop computers, Microsoft certification, and digital literacy training to serve as trainers for their families and other community members.

“It’s a fantastic benefit to the students,” said Melva Alvarez, PCC MESA program director and outreach specialist.

The California Connect Program is funded by a $10.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration for Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.

“Cal Connects was the biggest thing for us,” said Tony Coie, mathematics major and MESA member.”Saying I’m going to work feels weird, because it doesn’t feel like work to me.”

The PCC MESA Program gives extra support to students studying math, engineering, and science with math-based majors and is designed to assist low income, academically underprepared, and underrepresented students succeed in those fields. Coie works as a tutor, which he says is the best way to learn something.

“I was helping a student learn how to do something that I had never understood. And suddenly, it clicked for both of us at the same time,” he said.

The MESA Program is designed to give students an advantage in almost every way. Students in MESA are expected to have internships over the summer, which gives them a leg-up when it comes time to transfer or graduate and get a job. Scholarship opportunities are sought after and usually awarded.

“I write letters of reference all the time,” Alvarez said. “But the success stems from ensuring a sense of community.”

Coie couldn’t agree more.

“MESA stays with you through your time at PCC,” he said. “Not only for tutoring, but you have your counselor. The consistency is so helpful.”

And it pays off. The latest graduates of the program are headed to UCLA, Cal Poly Pomona, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, USC, and MIT, to name a few.

“The goal of the program is to transfer,” Alvarez said.

That’s something Coie is acutely aware of. His dream schools are UCLA and UC Berkeley, and his ultimate goal is to become a college math professor.

“I’ve always had this passion for teaching,” Coie said. “That ‘aha’ moment, when a student gets it, is such a great feeling.”

The MESA Program not only provides an environment to study, it also provides upper division books for students who might be unable to afford them. “The students can sign out books so they don’t have to purchase them,” Alvarez said. That too, builds a sense of community. “The students connect here academically,” she said.

As for Coie, he wishes he had found the MESA Program sooner.

“I’ll most definitely join MESA wherever my next step is,” he said.

For more information about the PCC MESA Program, call (626) 585-3053.

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