Avance Program

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Avance is a new two week summer technology program for Mesa Public School students. The students are English Language Learners and the goal of the program is to have them work on their English language skills while also learning and enhancing their technology skills. Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo, Community Liaison for Maricopa Community College/Mesa Public Schools, discusses the program.

José Cárdenas: One unique summer program just wrapped up in Mesa. It's called the avance program and a special group of students learned the English language and technology skills. With me to talk about the program is Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo, community liaison for the Maricopa community colleges and Mesa public schools. Welcome back to "Horizonte." You've been on to talk about other things. Tell us about this program.

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: It took 25 of our secondary students, junior high school and high school and put them through a institute hosted at Mesa community college and they had an opportunity to work with current technology, laptops, new software, to improve their technology skills which we know is a critical skill set as they continue their education and eventually move on to the workforce.

José Cárdenas: But it has an emphasis.

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: It does.

José Cárdenas: But there's an additional -- it has a benefit.

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: That benefit is to help these students that are primarily struggling with English language skills to also improve their English along with improving their technology skill.

José Cárdenas: How do you select the students?

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: Students are selected partly by application, and partly identified by teachers, and curriculum staff from our English acquisition department and one of the requirements was parental support. This was an intense two-week program, on campus from 8:00 to 4:00, so they were putting in a full day's work for two weeks straight, so we wanted to make sure that the parental support component was in place.

José Cárdenas: Parental support, in what way? How do you measure that?

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: Parents needed to sign off and be willing to support the students as they developed their English and technology skills and they had a celebration involving parents where they were able to present via technology, their final presentations and projects and via power point and taped interviews to their parents.

José Cárdenas: And they had a big surprise.

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: Unbeknownst to the students they were able to keep the laptops that they had been working on for the two-week period.

José Cárdenas: Let's talk about the programs and how you interweave the English language enhancement.

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: Our instruction was provided by Mesa public school staff in English to make sure they're acquiring the vocabulary and skilsl in English and all the software and all the projects have to be done in English. We also invited community leaders and local attorneys, physicians, someone from Mesa Police Department. Our leaders in our community to come in and be interviewed by the students and they had an opportunity to do live interaction.

José Cárdenas: Doing interviews. How does that relate to the technology?

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: They were taped and it was incorporated into their final presentation.

José Cárdenas: And these are presentations to their parents and --

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: Parents and staff, correct.

José Cárdenas: And in some sense graded or how do you determine whether the program is successful?

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: The fact it took place via a partnership model is a sign of success. It's a summer program and we didn't want to put them through a test at the end. But the quality of the project and the quality of the language skills and technology skills involved is something that staff will take into consideration. But particularly now when we hear about cuts to the budget, particularly around education and the struggles about education funding, the fact we were able to partner both within our own district with multiple departments and disciplines and our local community college to host the program is a hallmark for future programming.

José Cárdenas: There's scenes of the students in program. Anything in particular that stood out in the course of the last two weeks?

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: The fact that the students were able to be in the setting of higher education and we hear more and more about the completion initiative. We want to make sure that our students graduate from high school and not just graduate but move on to continuing education. The fact that was kind of an underlying emphasis via the setting, via being hosted at the college, it's something that we find critical for our students, making sure that they're looking forward and into their future.

José Cárdenas: What happens now? Do you maintain contact with the students and monitor their progress?
Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: Absolutely, we keep in touch with the students and using this pilot as a launching pad into the next year.

José Cárdenas: What would the expansion entail?

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: We have one cohort currently, of the 25 students who are pilot and hope to increase the number of students who are able to participate in the summer program next year.

José Cárdenas: Thinking about doubling the program, for example?

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: I would be delighted to double the program, absolutely.

José Cárdenas: What's involved? The kids from Mesa, you said Mesa teachers. How many people?

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: A team of three to four staff and others behind the scenes pulling the piece together.

José Cárdenas: There's a lot of logistics when it comes to transporting students from one setting to another and making sure that lunch is provided and equipment supplied. It was really a team effort and we heard compliments from the Mesa public school staff, how well they were received at the college and the students themselves being able to participate in the program and overwhelming positive feedback and the college staff how well behaved and what a pleasure it was to have our students on campus.

José Cárdenas: The college provides the setting, what else are you doing?

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: We provide the technology; the students were able to keep their laptops. An incentive and reward for participating in the program and we want to encourage them to continue their education , above and beyond what they'll complete once they get out of junior high and high school .

José Cárdenas: So this cohort, it's both junior high and high school, what was the breakdown exactly?

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: It was half and half, there was a good mix of students. Again, students that weren't necessarily the stellar students, on track for graduation and college success. It was those student that's tend to be the average students and can be overlooked. Not necessarily in trouble and not necessarily the A student in class but those who want to succeed and work hard and a few struggles with the English language skills.

José Cárdenas: So these were students you were comfortable with could handle the curriculum.

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: Absolutely, absolutely.

José Cárdenas: Last question, I know that the community colleges do a lot with students of this category in trying to help them get into higher education. Anything else that of particular importance in terms of getting the students college ready?

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: This is one of the plane examples of bridge programs we have between districts. The colleges across Maricopa have a number of programs to welcome the community and the K-12 students and you'll see more and more collaboration between K-12 and college and higher education and in terms of funding and struggles with education, this is a model that needs to be continued and I'm glad we were able to highlight it and one example of what we can do more of.

José Cárdenas: And the telephone number for the program. People can call and get information about next year's program.

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: Absolutely.

José Cárdenas: Thank you very much for joining us on the program.

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: Thank you.

Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo: Maricopa Community Colleges/Mesa Public Schools;

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