Growing up in a trailer park in Florida with a father in prison and a mother who was a high school dropout, Dawn Ginnetti never considered going to college. In fact, she barely made it through high school.
Today, after a few setbacks along the way, Ginnetti, 36, is an honor student at the elite Smith College in Massachusetts. She was one of just 30 students admitted to Smith, on a full scholarship, through the Ada Comstock Scholars program for nontraditional students. She’s majoring in American studies and plans to go for a doctorate.
Ginnetti’s career goal: to teach in a community college, because it was at Valencia Collegein Florida where her life turned around.
“Choosing to enroll in Valencia College was the best decision I ever made, hands down,” Ginnetti said. All the personal attention, tutoring sessions, peer mentoring and other resources there “were hugely helpful for me,” she said. “I didn’t know how to write a research paper before Valencia.”
Ginnetti’s story illustrates the value of some of the strategies community colleges are using to help students succeed.
Other successful approaches cited by Rachel Singer, vice president for community college relations and applied research at Achieving the Dream, include mandatory orientation sessions and student success courses for freshmen and self-paced math modules focusing on individual students’ needs rather than lengthy developmental courses.
“Making that first semester really important will lead to improved retention rates, and ultimately, you will end up with higher graduation rates,” Singer said. <Read more.>