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|Sunday, May 19th, 2013|
A school within our college
Click here to read more Interrobang articles written by Erika Faust
Published: Tuesday, August 7th, 2012
It’s the beginning of the school year and there are a ton of brand-new students on campus, eager to get started with classes and kick-start their education. One group of these new students is earning more than college credits - they’re also working toward completing their Ontario Secondary School Diploma at the same time.
School-Within-A-College, Fanshawe’s partnership with the Thames Valley District School Board, brings in 44 high school students from London and surrounding area who have been ‘disengaged’ from education, meaning that they have dropped out of high school or are in the process of doing so. These students attend classes at Fanshawe from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every weekday from September to June, earning the credits they need to complete their high school diploma as well as taking college courses that earns them credit towards a college diploma. This year, the program expanded to Fanshawe’s St. Thomas campus, where 22 students will attend classes.
The SWAC program is designed to be a grade 12 or 13 school year. The program does accept some 17-year-old students, but most students are between the ages of 18 and 21. Often, the student’s high school guidance counsellor will recommend the program to them. After completing the application, staff from the Thames Valley District School Board conduct an interview with each student. The interviewers look at many factors, including the number of credits the student has obtained, the student’s life circumstances, what they want to get out of the program and more. “There are so many students who could benefit from (the program),” said Melanie Neerhof, SWAC program assistant. “We’d like to see it grow.”
The goal of the program is to try to reengage the students with education by providing them with an alternative program and an alternative location for their education, said Matthew Sereda, a teacher in the program. He and Jessica Dowsett teach students classes for their secondary school credits, and Fanshawe College instructors deliver the college courses.
“The program aims to encourage students to graduate high school within one school year with the hopes then that the student will transition either into post-secondary education or the workplace,” Sereda said. “It’s really designed to be a program to catch students up - those students who have fallen between the cracks ... we really want to reengage with learning so that they are placed back in the same position with the rest of their peers. The program definitely catches them up and almost, in a sense, moves them forward, because when they graduate high school they also have college credits on their transcript.”
The program offers a variety of high school classes - it depends on what each student needs, said Dowsett. “Matt often likes to say that there are 44 different programs for 44 different students, (because) every student requires something different.” She added that the two work together well, as Sereda teaches English and humanities and she covers math and science. The learning environment is comfortable and flexible, she said: “Students design their own timelines and (set goals for) themselves (depending on) what’s best for them, their lives and current situation - things that are going on for them. We find that that flexibility is what really helps toward the success for the students.”
In addition to their high school credits, students can take up to four dual credit courses over the two semesters they’re on campus. The SWAC students are placed in classes with Day Away students - high school students who spend one day a week at Fanshawe in college classes. The students can choose to take courses that range from esthetics to motive power to personal support worker and more.
According to Sereda, the program is a “great advantage for the students, and we see huge success rates in terms of reengaging students with learning ... This year (September 2011 to June 2012), we had approximately an 85 per cent graduation rate for students in the program. These are all students that before joining the program likely would not have graduated from high school.” He added that over half of that cohort of students has been accepted into full-time college programs.
One of the main goals of the program is to get the students to feel like Fanshawe students and really feel like part of the community, said Dowsett. If these students feel like they belong at Fanshawe during the SWAC program, they may be able to see themselves continuing their education after graduation. “The more they can see themselves in college, the more likely, we believe, that they will want to go on to college later on in life, too. It just opens more doors for them.”
The fact that the program takes place at Fanshawe is a huge draw for many of these students, Sereda said. “Fanshawe is an incredible place to go to school and if it wasn’t for the wonderful team of college instructors that we have associated with us or the wonderful people in our office here at Continuing Education, then students wouldn’t feel so supported. It’s definitely the stars in students’ eyes: it’s why they want to look forward to a future education here at Fanshawe.”
For more information about the SWAC program, check out http://www.fanshawec.ca/scwi/swac.