Recruiters center of community
COM community mentors/recruiters don’t wait for people to decide to come to college; they go to them. Going to schools, churches and events, recruiters Earl Alexander and Marylou Ortuvia share information about educational options from technical certificates to degrees.
“We’re trying to create a college-going culture,” said Alexander. “Anywhere we can reach a student, we’re going to go."
After setting up tents in a Wal-Mart parking lot to share college information with Saturday morning shoppers, they discovered that people want to know more about education opportunities but are sometimes afraid to ask.
“They feel they’ll be looked down on. When they can come talk in work clothes, they feel comfortable,” he said.
Even more exciting than encouraging adults is introducing children to the world of possibilities. Going to elementary and middle schools to present career options, Alexander asks children to write down five things that they like to do. If students say, “I like to cook,” he talks about culinary school. If they say, “I like to text,” he suggests data entry jobs.
“All those things you do in normal life translate into careers,” said Alexander.
Alexander shows children that success does not depend on age. He presents a list of top 25 businesspeople under the age of 20, including stories such as an eight-year-old boy who invented the “batball,” a baseball bat with baseballs stored inside so he would not forget them. Toys R Us now sells his product.
“I tell them, ‘There’s at least $1 million in this room. Who’s it going to be?’” said Alexander. “When I’m in the classroom, I make students come up and make an acceptance speech.” They visualize success. “They get up and say, ‘I want to thank my mom…’”
COM recruiters are sharing with other groups about their educational options as well. Ortuvia especially reaches out to Spanish-speaking students. “We’ve been working really closely with ESL classes at high schools. We’re going in their classrooms and talking to students directly,” she said. She also speaks with students and parents at other events such as Cinco de Mayo parades and COM's Hispanic Parent Night. When a student is interested in college, "the family is involved as a whole," she said. As a bilingual employee, she can talk to a family without students translating for their parents.
More than ever, today’s students can explore options that were unavailable to their parents. “Gone are the days when students had to wait to graduate from high school to enter college,” said Alexander. Students now have opportunities such as COM Collegiate High School and dual credit programs.
It’s about helping everyone reach his or her full potential.
“Just let us help you to go somewhere. Even if you go to a four-year university, come back in the summer and let us help you," said Alexander.
University students at home for the summer can take courses during COM's two summer sessions to transfer to their university.
"We’re not just promoting COM; we’re promoting education. Our goal is to help the community. There is no limit to where we’ll go to talk to a student,” he said.