Every new semester brings with it the same familiar challenges.
Whatever they may be, it seems that every passing year brings with it hard lessons learned – all in the hope that by the end of our time as students, we will be shaped in a new mold of maturity that readies us for the upcoming challenges of our budding professional lives.
Ultimately, we hope that these hard lessons will translate to happier and brighter futures as adults.
Whatever achievements we have made as students though, very few of us can boast that we were able to accomplish such strides all alone. More often than not, we have had to rely on the support of our loved ones, friends, professors, colleagues and co-workers.
And though our victories may be well earned, there are few of us who could have matched our successes if the challenges had been greater, or if these friends had been harder to come by.
However, there are many students whose challenges exceed the norm, and yet persevere nonetheless. These are the students of College Steps, whose presence have become commonplace around campus.
College Steps is a post-secondary support program geared to assist students living with certain social, communication, or learning challenges to succeed in college level classes and eventually work towards a degree. Many of these students would not have had the opportunity to attend post secondary education under their existing support networks. College Steps is able to provide the specific learning experience their students require in the form of Individualized College Plans, or ICP’s.
These ICP’s are meant to serve as highly-structured plans outlining goals for academic, social, independent living, and vocational success. College Steps works with each student it supports to design an ICP to meet their goals. ICPs are then carefully coordinated between the student, the student’s family and the program staff in order to achieve the student’s goals.
Key to the success of the plans are the mentors, who work with students on a daily basis to keep on track with their goals and meet daily objectives.
Long-distance athlete and PT major, Jennifer Fannon, summarizes her role as a mentor as acclimating her students for “the all-around college experience.” Mentors accomplish this by providing one-on-one learning with students to develop key skills, including: socialization, note-taking, studying/test preparation, and communication skills, to name a few.
“Each student develops their own goals for the program, and the mentors themselves are active in making sure the student accomplishes their goals, eventually without the mentor’s help”, stated Fannon, who described the program overall as “a good learning experience,” ultimately allowing students to overcome their shyness and grow as individuals.
Both Fannon and Carolyn O’Connor, another mentor and a grad-phase OT major, value tremendously their involvement in the program – as do the other mentors of the program. To them, it’s not so much a job as it is a chance to spend time with people they have grown attached to personally, and the benefits of the program are felt mutually in this respect.
“This job is definitely my sanity,” O’Connor explained, when asked about her attachment to the program. “It feels good to work with a group that needs and loves you.”
Ultimately, the service College Steps offers is one that everybody needs at some point in their lives: the guidance of loved ones, friends and mentors through the challenges of young adulthood. Students in the program are challenged constantly to improve upon their professional, academic and social skillsets, and are surrounded by those personally invested in their accomplishments.
Through this mission however, College Steps also achieves something else indirectly. Many of the bonds created between mentor and mentee turn personal, and serve to strengthen that feeling of small-campus unity that often characterizes the AIC family.
This unity may not always be consciously felt, but it’s no small matter that this campus offers something that very few other campuses can: that close-knit and friendly environment in which nobody is a stranger and everyone is accessible.
College Steps couldn’t survive here had it not been for this quality. It speaks to the character of AIC as a whole if anyone, no matter what their social, physical or mental limitations may be, can find success in their goals towards a fulfilling and independent life.
The presence of College Steps on campus represents an overwhelmingly positive aspect of the AIC character. It serves as the epitome of communal responsibility, and sets a kind example for how we, as students, ought to interact with one another: that we should all strive in some way to be “mentors” to one another, and help one another so we may grow and mature collectively.
For more information about College Steps, you can visit their website at www.collegesteps.org.