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Victoria College freshmen personal development class teaches life, academic success


Aug. 31, 2010 at 3:31 a.m.
Updated Sept. 4, 2010 at 4:04 a.m.

Alyssa DeLaGarza works on a project in the On Course class at Victoria College. The personal development class teaches students how to take responsibility for their actions and emotional awareness.

Sylvia Herrera, a 60-year-old Victoria College sophomore, was "terrified" of school.

"I was terrified after being out of school for 37 years," she said.

Herrera, whose brother died in a head-on collision within her first week of classes, had two brain aneurisms since she began school.

She is now an honors student and plans to graduate with her associates degree in the spring, something she passionately attributes to a Victoria College personal development class called On Course.

"I found strength in me that I didn't even know that I had through this course," she said. "I didn't know I was smart. I didn't know I was this articulate."

This semester is the first time the On Course class is required of all freshmen students with no college credits.

The course focuses on teaching students to be introspective, responsible and proactive.

"I got out of that class believing that I can do it," Herrera said.

The college offers 20 sections of the course this fall and more than 600 students are enrolled. The course, which transfers to four-year universities, is also offered at Cuero High School and will be offered in Gonzales through a dual-credit program.

Instructors use journaling, motivational quotes and group discussion along with a textbook, to teach the class.

"When they're empowered with the ability and the courage to connect with other students they fall into the cycle of success rather than the cycle of negativity," said Gail Janecka, the class' instructor and Victoria College Teacher of the Year.

The curriculum has been used since 2006. The idea behind the class is that in order for students to be successful, they must take responsibility, set goals and set a pathway to achieve them.

"They're learning theories that will transfer into other academic areas," said Rachel Winkenwerder, First Year Experience and supplemental instruction coordinator.

Students who enroll in the course are more likely to stay in school compared to those who don't, according to VC research.

Fifty-nine percent of all students enrolled in the course stayed enrolled at VC from one year to the next in comparison to only 44.5 percent who did not take the On Course class.

Tommi Gips, a sophomore who took the class during her first semester, believes the class encouraged her to stay enrolled.

"I used my weakness to develop my mental strength, to develop knowledge about my work," she said. "Now, I don't say 'I can't do that.'"



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