Achieving the Dream is a non-profit organization Tyler Junior College has adopted to take an initiative for the betterment of student education.
“Achieving the Dream is an initiative that colleges accept to help improve student success on campus,” said Dr. Butch Hayes, provost of Tyler Junior College.
Hayes has been associated with Achieving the Dream for 10 years. He feels drawn to take student success under his wing. According to Lee Allard, Director of Institutional Research, for students registered in Fall 2010, 5.1 percent (618 out of 11,418) withdrew from all of their classes before the end of the term, and 19 percent did not return for the Spring 2011 semester. Hoping to decrease the dropout rates, Hayes and the board are doing everything in their power to help make the students successful.
“The people working on Achieving the Dream look for the barriers that do not help students. We can help the students by trying to overcome these barriers,” said Hayes.
One hundred and thirty colleges have adopted the Achieving the Dream program, hoping to improve the success rate at their institutions. TJC was accepted into the program in June of 2010, and is hoping to make its statistics skyrocket. TJC graduation rate as of now is 11 percent and the board is certain that Achieving the Dream will raise this. A lot of the colleges have been successful at doing so, and we currently look at the success other schools have had with the program, such as Blinn College, to model after.
“We look at other institution practices, to see which ones work for them, and see if it will help us on our campus,” said Hayes.
Achieving the Dream is not for all students on campus, but puts most of the focus on students of color, or coming from low-income families. The program has many tasks to tackle in academics, and TJC is directing most of their attention to developmental math courses. But according to the evidence presented, African-American and Hispanic men currently possess the lowest numbers in academic success at TJC.
“We know on our campus we are not doing the best job we can,” said Hayes. “Particularly African-American and Hispanic men, according to our evidence, are not doing as well as others. So we need to help our men, while still focusing on the campus as a whole.”
African American student and freshman, Steven Walker, had a theory of why this could be so.
“I think it’s probably because most of them grew up in an environment where education was not a priority,” said Walker. “I’m not saying all of them are like that, but most of the guys are walking around in saggy pants listening to rap artists. What kind of rap artist emphasizes education?”
Some other students do not see it as a race issue. They think students are finding other things that make them lose their motivation for education.
“There’s no motivation in college except making money,” said Connor Tucker, sophomore at TJC who is not a minority. “And if that’s the case, there’s no motivation so they are doing the minimum it takes to get them by. I don’t think it’s a race thing, I think it’s a lack of concern to make the world a better place.”
Lisa Harper, dean of Academic Foundations, is also a collaborative source with Achieving the Dream, and has a strong passion for the organization.
“I have known about the initiative since it began. For me, if you’re in higher education, I feel the need to help every single person,” said Harper. “I don’t care about race, age, or economic status. You have to have the desire to help every student that comes in have a better life. That’s what Achieving the Dream is all about.”
Harper also said that hosting events and programs is a big part of Achieving the Dream to make the initiative well-known, but it’s up to the colleges to establish them. TJC will be looking at its top three priorities, and has been drafting a resolution for future events for the program on campus. Achieving the Dream is not very well known on campus, but it will soon start expanding so that others will know of the great things the program is bringing to the campus. The board is looking to form a Student Advisory Council to get a survey on how the students like to be taught, want to be treated, and their opinion on upcoming proposals. Harper feels that there is a miscommunication between the faculty and the students, and that adding students to the decision-making process will increase their chances of succeeding at the program. But when it comes to Achieving the Dream, they focus on the key phrase: student success.
“You have to start finding out what the students really need,” said Harper. We are starting to change the way we operate the college for the students.”