BLOOMINGTON — Danyelle Mathews, a high school senior at the Regional Alternative School in Bloomington, is getting a real taste of college by taking a series of workshops at her school while earning a college credit.
“It’s awesome to have an opportunity like this. It’s really got my hopes up by succeeding in this class,” said Mathews, 19 of Normal. Mathews, who had previously struggled with her grades at Normal Community West High School, has good grades now and is considering a career in psychology.
She’s one of 12 high school juniors and seniors at the DeWitt-Livingston-McLean Regional Alternative School taking the Guided Path to Success (GPS) program, which offers coaching, study skills and a free college credit upon satisfactory completion. The GPS program, offered by Heartland Community College, helps students transition from high school to the next steps in life, said school Director Glenn Hoffmann.
Too often parents and students set their sights on graduating from high school but don’t thoroughly consider the next step, he said. Some students see high school graduation as the finish line, but it really is the starting line, he said.
Dalton Rankin, 18, of Normal is excited about the college credit he is earning. Rankin, who had an individualized education program in reading and writing, said he has done well on the college-level writing assignments, and that has given him more confidence.
“I’m pretty proud of myself, actually,” said Rankin, who hopes to be a diesel mechanic or a welder.
Workshops include: Targeting Success, Exploring Healthy Lifestyles, Understanding Civic responsibility, Planning Personal Finances and Transitioning to College.
Mathews said Mastering Time Management was the most helpful class for her, and Rankin said his favorite was Motivating Self.
Of the 12 students taking the program at the alternative school, 83 percent are low income, so getting a free college credit means a lot.
The program is a Heartland initiative in which students attend classes at their home school while earning credit and getting “mentally prepared for college,” said Syreeta Williams, a Heartland academic adviser.
The program also continues into college. “It helps with motivation in college — to see an end goal especially in those first few years and stay on track,” said Heartland academic adviser Jen Vieley.
GPS is taught by Heartland instructors at area schools, including Hammitt (at The Baby Fold), Normal Community, El Paso-Gridley, Hartsburg-Emden, Central Catholic and Lincoln high schools, Calvary Christian Academy and Livingston Area Career Center in Pontiac.