In this issue of The Finish Line we're celebrating our web launch and free navigation services and highlighting two comebackers who are passionate about transformation through helping working-age adults finish their diploma, certificate, or degree.
In April, The Graduate! Network joined our friends in the Capital Region to celebrate the official launch of ProjectAttain!. For the first time, the Capital Region’s 346,000 adults with some college who have not yet earned their degree will have support to reach the finish line.
There are so many reasons to be excited about the ProjectAttain! launch.
First, it gave us the opportunity to officially welcome the Capital Region into our growing family of communities, all of which are committed to providing entrance ramps for adults who are interested in completing their college degrees.
Second, we at the Network had the pleasure of officially being “coast to coast”. The Network has its roots in Philadelphia, PA, and with the launch of ProjectAttain! our model of adult-centric services has now officially made it across the country. The Capital Region has stepped up as a trailblazer in recognizing the real opportunity of providing a helping hand in support of adults crossing the higher education finish line.
We at The Graduate! Network are grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with the region’s progressive leaders who have led us to this day. All of the communities in our network are enriched by this new and powerful voice in our growing movement in support of adults.
“Like a lot of people, I took a different path,” says Anette Smith, ProjectAttain! board chair.
“I started at Sacramento City College after high school, transferred to Sacramento State, and then life happened, so I started working full time and was travelling a lot. At the time, it was difficult to continue your education. There weren’t online options back then, you had to be in class. With my schedule, I just couldn’t do it. Fast forward a few years and I went to University of Phoenix. I had a great experience, and now I am passionate about people that want to be able to continue their degrees in a meaningful way.”
Smith, who also chairs ProjectAttain!'s executive committee, is a champion for adult learners with an eye toward transforming the Capital Region. As more adult learners return to school to complete their education, Smith sees two opportunities on the horizon.
“Educational attainment will help attract and retain businesses to the community; GSEC is always looking at the number of people who have higher education to make the Greater Sacramento region more attractive to incoming or relocating businesses” she explains. “But a better educated workforce is also a more civically engaged workforce, and I really think that piece is so important, as we have seen in the last year or so.”
Smith is on to something. College graduates, regardless of their degree, have a positive impact on their community. They are more likely to participate in civic activities (attending local, town, or school meetings; signing petitions; contacting elected officials), have higher voter turnout, spend more time volunteering, and give more to charitable causes.
“As a community, we’re only as good as those at our lowest levels,” says Smith, “and attaining degrees or certificates enables people to get a better job, to earn a living wage, to be able to buy a home. When they do those things, collectively as a community we all rise. We rise by lifting others. For companies like SMUD, they’re going to have more rate payers because people are getting new jobs and getting new homes. For other businesses, you have people with more disposable income that are able to patronize local small businesses. Everyone wins when we have an educated community and ProjectAttain! is creating the path for that possibility.”
Corrine Vieira took nine years to earn her associate degree. Already expecting her daughter when she graduated from high school, she pieced together one or two classes at a time to achieve her goal.
“Once I accomplished that degree, I knew I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree, so I went to night school and earned that while working full time at Sierra,” says Vieira. “That was the first time I had a job that earned enough money that I only had to work one job.”
Twenty years later, Vieira is still at Sierra College in Rocklin, CA, committed to seeing others complete their education. As the director of student services, she has helped thousands of students claim credentials and associate degrees through the school’s automated degree system.
Sierra College designed the software in response to the number of students who missed the graduation petition process and left the school with college credit but no certificate or degree. Now, instead of relying to students to evaluate their transcripts and apply for credentials, the college’s program cross-references transcripts will every potential credential and awards students each certificate and degree that their coursework fulfills.
“Looking at our departure and equity data, we knew we needed to figure out how to remove the barrier of the petition process,” explains Vieira.
Building on their home-grown success, the college then joined the Degrees When Due (DWD) California cohort and used the same methodology to award even more earned but unclaimed college credentials. “There are very few students leaving us now without a degree or certificate that they've earned. We've made significant progress.”
Vieira currently works with a team developing a playbook to help other DWD colleges leverage Sierra College’s programming nationwide.
“The more people we can help get through the completion process, the more they will be empowered to take on other things. From a college perspective, I think that’s important for economic mobility and having a sense of pride,” says Vieira.
“For me, having been in poverty, I see education as the pathway out. I was a young parent. I had somebody depending on me. I knew I had to find a way and for me, it was going to be an education. I saw my degree as a pathway out of poverty. That’s why this work is so important to me.”
Ready. Set. Return! ProjectAttain!’s website is live and actively supporting our work as a service provider, initiative, and curator of data and expertise.
www.projectattain.org is our home base for adult learners seeking to complete their education. Through the site, future graduates can access our navigators to reimagine their goals, reinvest in their future, and return to school.
ProjectAttain! navigators work one-on-one with working-age adults to guide them through the process of returning to school. They provide free, institution-neutral services to help you navigate the path to complete your diploma, certificate, or degree. To Get Started, connect with a navigator today.
Returning adult learners are the website's North Star and our team looks forward to celebrating their success through storytelling, imagery, and video projects to come.
The website highlights adult educational attainment needs and serves as a voice for adult learners. It will showcase regional adult-friendly partners and programs and features data-driven content that improves access, equity, and support for adult learners in the Capital Region.
And, it offers an open invitation to join us by partnering with ProjectAttain! to tangibly support adult learners, thereby increasing social and economic opportunity in our community through educational attainment.
ProjectAttain! uses its website to curate the research and best practices of others who work in this space and to serve as a platform through which ProjectAttain! will publish its own applied research and results.
A website is a dynamic environment, always in the process of the growth and change. We welcome your feedback as we expand our services, hone our messaging, and engage with our community.