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A way to beat the college transfer blues

July 29, 2018

Driving along Guadalupe Street (aka “The Drag”) in Austin, I came across my alma mater amid students afoot and cyclists zigzagging through traffic, backpacks bulging with books. Moments later, I stumbled on my “old reliable,” the Brackenridge dormitory. It’s conveniently located near the Perry-Castañeda Library, where I pulled frequent all-nighters for final exams. I often reflect how a small-town community college transfer student like me even graduated from the University of Texas at Austin.

Perhaps it was the Summer of Love on the Longhorn campus — love of learning, of course.

This sizzling summer was no different for 60 community college students from across Texas who participated in Catch the Next’s fourth annual Transfer Motivational Conference.

Catch the Next Inc. is a nonprofit, college-readiness organization whose goals are in tandem with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s 60x30 initiative: 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-old Texans earning a college degree or certification by 2030.

CTN’s Ascender cohorts from Austin Community College, El Paso Community College, South Texas College and Palo Alto Community College convened at UT-Austin under a sponsored joint agreement with the UT Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, the Greater Texas Foundation, the Meadows Foundation and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

First-generation college students were inspired to look beyond an associate degree, continue their education at a four-year institution and achieve the ultimate goal: a bachelor’s degree. Like myself a decade ago, these students experienced the impact of separation from their families for the first time.

During this three-day event, CTN students were exposed to engaging activities, immersing themselves into university life. They participated in a fact-finding scavenger hunt, requiring them to solve trivia about the campus’ history and take photographs of monuments and buildings, exploring and familiarizing themselves with the campus.

Jeffrey Mayo, UT senior academic program coordinator, addressed ways to overcome challenges in and out of the classroom when transferring to a four-year university, such as relying on academic support services and getting involved in campus activities. In addition, Mayo introduced them to the Transfer Club, an organization that aims to ease the transition to a four-year university.

As a former transfer student, I can relate to the psychological and emotional toll that transitioning from a small town to a fast-paced city and university can bring. The Transfer Club is one small step toward lessening that separation anxiety.

CTN students were given sound financial advice on borrowing, interest rates and credit card debt. At a time when spiraling student debt is keeping college graduates from living independently and becoming financially secure, this piece of counseling can prove invaluable.

Among other presentations, students were encouraged to openly express their creative side with Mike Guinn, director and lead facilitator at UpLift Your Life. A celebrated poet and creative writing specialist, Guinn provided a creative socioemotional approach to mental health and emotional literacy via performing arts. His workshop, “Rise Up,” encouraged participants to explore how transformative writing can uplift their lives as they dramatically read poetry aloud, exercising tone and projecting diction, making them hear their inner spirit.

In the end, Guinn shared some words of wisdom regarding a successful academic career: “Remember why you chose what you chose.”

The 2018 Summer of Academic Love proved successful as these community-college students will remember why they chose to attend Catch the Next’s fourth annual Motivational Conference, just as I remembered why I became a lifelong Longhorn.

Alfredo Torres Jr., an independent historian working at Palo Alto College, is CTN communication/operations assistant and copy editor for CTN: A Journal of Pedagogy and Ideas.

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