June 15, 2011

Students march toward college

Rachel Brown
Dalton Daily Citizen

DALTON — Enrique Hernandez said the two-week Steps to College summer program at Dalton State College is helping him in learning more about government and United States history.

“It’s just to refresh my memory and remember things we’ve been doing in school,” said the rising senior at Gordon Central High School.

Hernandez is one of about 40 students who participate in the no-cost program open to area students in grades nine through 12 or who have just graduated from high school. The program is tailored to each grade level to assist students with preparing for or studying to retake high stakes tests such as End of Course Tests or graduation tests, or even the Compass test required of all students entering Dalton State College unless their SAT score is high enough for an exemption.

Steps to College began in 2001 under a Board of Regents initiative to help Hispanic students do better educationally, said program director Monte Salyer, an associate professor of English. The program was later funded by a grant from the private Goizueta Foundation based in Atlanta. More recently, it’s been funded by Dalton State College and is now open to students from all ethnic groups with a goal of preparing students for college. This year’s two-week program wraps up on Friday.

Jackson Stinnett, a rising freshman at North Murray High School, said he enrolled in the program after his mother told him about it.

“I really like it,” he said while taking a snack break outside the Pope Student Center as other students took to the sand for an impromptu volleyball game.

Stinnett plans to become an FBI agent and said he will major in criminal justice and begin his first couple of years at Dalton State. About 80 percent of the students who complete the Steps to College program also attend Dalton State, he said.

Yanely Quintero, a rising freshman at Dalton High School, said she found the End of Course Test preparation helpful as well as the small class sizes — there are only five in her class.

“It’s good,” she said. “You’ll be more advanced when you go into high school.”

The program is staffed with a combination of local high school teachers and Dalton State professors.

“What’s nice,” said Dalton High School tennis coach David Hilley, “is when you see them going to college here, and you taught them in Steps to College.”

Dalton High soccer coach Jim Wickes, who has taught in the program about 10 years, said the program helps students become better prepared for college, but it also helps them in preparing for major tests.