Improving Retention, Graduation and Workforce Preparation Through a Service Year: A Promising Community College National Model

by Josh Young, Miami Dade College on the Huffington Post Blog

“The support I received at Miami Dade College has changed my life. Now I want to be a member of the Service Year Changemaker Corps to help others change their lives, too.” This quote is from a Miami Dade College (MDC) student who emigrated from Haiti when she was 9 and then had to overcome homelessness, poverty, lack of family support and many other obstacles in order to reach her dream of enrolling in college. She is a student who at times felt like giving up, but through the extra support she received, and her involvement in community engagement, she was able to overcome many obstacles and become a stellar student on track for success. Our experience at MDC has proven that engaging students in service – both as part of their academic courses and through extra-curricular opportunities – helps students like Claudia stay in school, graduate, and be prepared for success in the workforce and as citizens. MDC is proud to be part of the Franklin Project’s Service Year + Higher Education Challenge which aims to make a service year a common expectation and opportunity for all college students, with the goal of increasing degree attainment, employability, and long-term civic engagement through service. Community colleges enroll approximately half of all postsecondary students in the United States and are a critically important gateway to college for millions of under-represented disadvantaged students. Many community college students, and the majority at institutions like MDC, enroll with a number of risk factors such as under-preparedness, first generation in college, challenges of balancing school with family and work responsibilities and economic insecurity. Unfortunately, but understandably, these at-risk students struggle to stay in school and graduate. For example, 70 percent of community college students test into one or more developmental education courses, and less than 25 percent of them earn a degree or certificate within eight years. There is also growing commitment to the important role higher education plays in providing opportunities for civic learning and service to ensure the future health of our democracy. Retention, graduation, workforce and civic preparation are top priorities for community colleges, but finding workable solutions is not easy. ~1@BODYURL[id=114jbcurl1325]@