Student Resiliency: Still Thriving While Social Distancing

This isn’t the first time that Brandon had to adapt to a completely new way of life. As a recent immigrant, he had to improve his English skills and adjust to American social customs. And now, as a student at Mott Community College, he adjusts to transitioning his entire college schedule to remote learning. He credits the support of his Student Success Coach, Dan Stewart, with making it happen smoothly.

Since Mott Community College moved to all-remote instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dan and Brandon have talked on the phone or texted every day. Most calls are simple check-ins to talk about Brandon’s assignments, but sometimes they use video chats or screen-sharing to walk through a particularly challenging task. Brandon plans to study architecture, and remote learning has required him learn new software to convert content for his art courses to a digital format.

One year ago, Brandon was out-of-school and had not completed his high school diploma. He enrolled in Mott’s Gateway program, an early college program for students who have dropped out of high school or who are unlikely to graduation in a traditional setting. ATD’s Gateway program offers students an opportunity to re-engage with high school on a college campus, while earning college credits. The opportunity to take college classes is a powerful motivator for students who have previously struggled with education, but Gateway’s primary tool is personalized coaching which fosters a sense of belonging. In this period of school closures, Gateway students depend on this crucial service more than ever.

Brandon reports that despite the fact that he cannot attend his classes on campus at this time, he feels connected to his education, thanks to the close relationships he developed with Dan and the Gateway to College staff. Brandon currently holds a 3.58 GPA and is enrolled in four college courses, putting him on track to earn his high school diploma in June 2020.

Despite the constraints of social distancing and remote learning, a network of more than 30 Gateway programs across the country are finding creative ways to stay connected with their students and providing them access to the technology tools they need to stay connected to their classes and their peers. Shortly after the transitioning of most campuses hosting Gateway to College programs, ATD staff hosted a webinar sharing tips and tools for maintaining close relationships with students during isolation. The team will continue to check in with colleges hosting Gateway programs, to offer assistance and supports during this difficult time.

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