Family responsibilities, work obligations and financial disadvantages are some of the many obstacles a person may face when trying to decide whether to attend college.
For some, the obstacles seem too numerous and too difficult to overcome, convincing them to abandon their attempts to further their education. It is especially common with students who not only face the same obstacles as any other student but also have the disadvantage of being over age 25.
Amarillo College attempts to ease the burden on such students through a program called Community Link. The program, which began as the STAR Outreach program in 1987, is located at 2412 N. Grand St. According to Maury Roman-Jordan, director of outreach services, the center is in the heart of the city’s immigrant population and serves as a hub aimed at assisting the older student population in preparing for college.
“The students are not only older but also academically underprepared and disadvantaged, “ Roman-Jordan said.
The center focuses on assisting the students by providing guidance from the moment of initial contact all the way to enrollment at AC. In addition to offering classes for GED preparation and English as a second language, the center aids students in career exploration, AC registration and connection to Testing Services at the Washington Street Campus. It also hosts yearly Cash for College seminars, where students learn how to complete the financial assistance process and about other sources of financial aid to help with educational expenses.
But lack of money isn’t the only thing that can hinder a potential student.
“A lot are afraid of AC and probably would not go or delay going to college because of the intimidation or embarrassment,” said Roman-Jordan. She said that feeling is common in students who dropped out of high school and those who are unfamiliar with the education system. She said while they have the potential, they often don’t know where to start.
To reach those prospective students, Community Link participates in several outreach and recruitment events in the community.
“Any event where there will be an older population is a chance for recruitment,” Roman-Jordan said, adding that they consistently attend both the Amarillo Job Fair and the Veteran’s Job Fair.
The center also works closely with local employers to inform their employees about higher education opportunities.
Tyson, Amarillo’s second largest employer, allows Community Link to attend its new employee orientation each Tuesday to discuss GED and ESL classes and degree programs. Roman-Jordan said Tyson also invites the center to set up education fairs once a semester in each of the three employee cafeterias and offers tuition reimbursement to its employees not only for GED and ESL classes but for degrees on its approved list.
Other Amarillo employers, such as Panhandle Workforce Solutions, Xcel and Ben E. Keith, work with Community Link to connect employees to education resources and opportunities. The center attends education fairs hosted by the employers to provide information to prospective students.
Roberto Sanchez, who is enrolled in an evening ESL class, said he first heard about the program from a radio ad and was convinced to contact Community Link.
“Many people don’t do it because of the fear, “ Sanchez said. He said the ad he heard encourages students to not let fear keep them from pursuing their education goals. Sanchez works at All Storage and is able to take only one class, but he said he is interested in possibly taking classes to prepare him for his GED.
Omar Alejandro Godina, another ESL student, also said he is interested in attending GED preparation classes once he completes his class.
Learning about Community Link from friends and family seems to be a common occurrence among students. Hunter Khoshan and Anna Hermosillo, two students enrolled in GED preparation classes, both attributed their enrollment to friends. Both said their long-term goals include enrolling in AC classes.
“I plan to major in engineering,” Khoshan said. He said he enjoys the classes at Community Link because they are easy to follow, unlike at other places.
Hermosillo hasn’t decided on a major but also is taking a reading class on the Washington Street Campus to prepare for testing. She expressed satisfaction with her GED classes.
“They explain, and if you have questions, they are able to answer at any time,” Hermosillo said. She said the only thing she would like to change is that the classes pass quickly, and it would be great if the classes were longer.
Dustin Parden, another student, agreed but also said he appreciates that his instructor, Linda Morgan, explains every detail, makes sure the students are caught up and is available for help before and after class. Parden said he learned about the classes at Community Link via a Google search.
“I wanted to better myself,” he said. “It’s hard to get a job without a GED.”
Parden said he plans to go to AC and would like to be a nurse.
Hannah Hicks also is interested in the nursing program. She said she learned about Community Link from one of her teachers at North Heights after she inquired about resources to prepare for her GED. She said she likes Morgan’s approach.
“She explains a lot better than teachers did in high school,” Hicks said.
In addition to the two classrooms used for classes, Community Link provides a computer lab for students so they can use software such as Rosetta Stone. Roman-Jordan stressed that while the lab is primarily for use by these students, it is open to any currently enrolled AC student as well.
“I’ve used it for several things, but first and foremost, I use it to do homework, “ said Lorraine Nunez, a nursing major.
Nunez said the center provides a quiet atmosphere, a reliable Internet connection, the ability to print and is closer to her home than the Washington Street Campus.
Roman-Jordan said that while the center does not offer academic classes, Community Link personnel eventually would like to offer developmental classes such as math, writing and reading.
Community Link is open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.
For more information, call the center at 806-381-8968 or visit online at www.actx.edu/community.