If you had asked her a year ago, Devona Middleton may not have imagined the bright future she now sees before her.
At age 26, it had been many years since she attended school without earning a high school diploma. Determined to build a better life for herself and her child, Amayah, Middleton realized that earning a high school equivalency (GED®) would be the first step.
She was working full time, but despite her demanding schedule with work and family, she enrolled in GED® test preparation classes at CCD’s Foundational Skills Institute program in May of 2015. But for Middleton, this was just the beginning.
In July, her instructor introduced her to the CCD Foundational Skills Institute Accelerated Career Transitions, or ACTNow! program.
“Once I became a single Mom,” Middleton says, “I decided I was going to do everything I could possibly do to make sure my daughter got every opportunity I could give to her. That is why I enrolled in ACTNow!.”
As its name suggests, this program helps students accelerate earning college credentials to expedite the next phase of their education or career. A high school diploma or its equivalent is optional. As long as a person is 17-years old, all that is required is an interest, a passion and a goal—and Middleton had all three.
Devona passed her first of four GED® tests, a social studies test in October, and the ACTNow! program offered her a scholarship along with one-on-one support to start college before completing the other three tests. Devona was able to begin classes for a certificate in CCD’s business technology track while still completing GED® classes. In January, as she started her second semester of college, Devona completed her high school equivalency—a major achievement that qualified her for Pell grants to pay most of her educational costs.
CCD’s Foundational Skills Institute continually seeks to build collaborative partnerships with community-based organizations that support underserved populations. The program goal is to help individuals who face barriers get training and credentials that will lead to sustainable employment. FSI offers high school equivalency classes both on campus and in partnership with organizations such as DHA, Mi Casa Resource Center, Lake Middle School, and The Gathering Place.
Through ACTNow!, CCD’s Foundational Skills Institute supports students wherever they are in their educational pathway, and Devona’s situation is a great example of a person who has benefited from startup scholarships, a study plan with targeted tutoring and many other support services. For successful college transition, most students first enroll in AAA 109, a class that helps them prepare for college by learning time management and academic skills to balance life, work and school. Intensive career development is an integral part of the ACTNow! program and is also a major aspect of CCD’s career & technical education programs.
ACTNow! calls on CCD’s extensive resources to help with many areas of students’ lives beyond their studies, including housing, food, victim assistance, counseling and more. For example, because of Denver’s housing crisis, many individuals are suddenly facing homelessness. The ACTNow! program coordinator seeks out support services for students who might need this type of assistance. CCD even stocks its own food pantry.
Marsea Wynne, program coordinator, meets all students individually to determine if they are prepared, and, if not, what they need to do to get there. When she met with Middleton, she was impressed with her attitude, excitement and determination.
“She was a wonderful fit for the program,” Wynne says. “She was ready to start on her path and we were eager to help guide her efforts.”
Wynne also believes CCD programs offer exceptional instruction and provide substantial support systems to meet community and industry needs.
“We work with students from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds and our recruiters are proactive in meeting their needs,” she says. “We reach out to adults who may not otherwise gain the skills they need to participate and share their talents in our communities.”
Middleton agrees and believes the program was empowering.
Almost immediately, she knew she wanted to earn her legal administrative professional certificate. Now, Middleton is heading into her third semester and from there plans to continue toward an associate degree. All credits she earns will be stackable to help her move more quickly through the program.
“Marsea put me on the path toward furthering my education,” Middleton says. “She got me started on my first college class at CCD in the fall of 2015 and offered the scholarship and the books necessary for me to succeed. Most importantly, CCD's Foundational Skills Institute/ACTNow! helped me show my daughter how much of a difference an education can make when it comes to accomplishing her goals.”
As Devona gets closer to completing her degree, she hopes her new skills and her college credential will allow her to help others the way this program helped her.
“If I can support people in challenging legal situations, I know I will be making a rewarding contribution while paying it forward at the same time.”