August 28, 2008

Community-based office will help younger students

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- With a clip of a ribbon, a collaborative effort between Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Career Preparation Program and the city of Carbondale will debut at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2.

The ribbon cutting will officially open a new office at the Eurma C. Hayes Center. The office’s goal is assisting the Carbondale community and school system in addressing the academic achievement gap that exists with underrepresented students, said Seymour L. Bryson, associate chancellor for diversity at SIUC.

Bryson said the office will serve a dual purpose. It’s an expansion of the Career Preparation Program, which strives to enhance academic skills in core areas such as reading, math and writing, as well as personal skills and social services to prepare younger students for post-secondary education. The office and expanded program will also serve as a community-learning laboratory for select SIUC programs and students, he said.

The Office of the Associate Chancellor for Diversity launched the career preparation program many years ago, working with middle and high school students throughout the region via a monthly seminar and intensive two- or three-week summer academic program. Now, the program is expanding to feature after-school academic assistance through the new office.

“The city and the university are working together so we now have an office in the community,” Bryson said. “The link between SIUC and the city of Carbondale is significant.”

The program’s primary focus is underrepresented students in grades six through eight, with a secondary focus of providing services and activities for high school students. The middle school students will also actively participate in the Career Preparation Program’s monthly programs.

The program already employs SIUC students as mentors for the monthly October through May schedule and a two-week summer session. Bryson said he anticipates University academic departments will utilize the expanded after-school program as training labs of sorts, a way to give SIUC students and faculty work experience in the community while helping younger students bridge the academic achievement gap.

After Tuesday’s opening festivities, the office will be have regular hours Monday through Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. Anna Jackson, a lecturer in the SIUC English department, is coordinator for the career prep program. For more information about the program, call 618/536-6646.