Riverland program helps returning students

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 2, 2000

Going back to college can be tough for anyone – especially if they’ve been away from the classroom for quite some time.

Wednesday, August 02, 2000

Going back to college can be tough for anyone – especially if they’ve been away from the classroom for quite some time.

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Riverland Community College hopes to make the transition a little easier with its New Directions program.

New Directions is a way to "give non-traditional students enthusiasm to go back to school," said Deb Kvenvold, assistant director of admissions at Riverland.

Kvenvold explained that while the program encourages individuals to return to the classroom, it does not focus attention on choosing a specific major or classes; it is mainly an informational session.

Designed specifically for those individuals who have been out of high school and college for seven years or more, or those who have never even attended college, New Directions tells them how to get back in the swing of things, or how to start anew.

Individuals are given the opportunity to voice whatever is on their minds – from how to pay for classes to how to find out what they’re interested in.

Time management is an important issue, as Kvenvold explained that they also discuss balancing college with full time careers.

"We help them decide how much of a challenge is too much," she said.

Family is also taken into consideration, as they are affected just as much as the students themselves.

"We offer support, discussing how family might react, or how children might feel," Kvenvold said. "They might feel that the classes are taking away from them."

Individuals who have completed New Directions have nothing but good things to say; for them it was a life-changing experience.

Pauline Kohnke, who completed the program about five years ago, owns her own beauty salon in Glenville.

For her, it was a great opportunity.

"It created a good business for me," Kohnke said.

Kohnke explained that she always knew that’s where she wanted to be. New Directions simply helped with that.

Kohnke was hoping to start working right away, and that need was met.

Kohnke said that the program was very well presented; she enjoyed it very much.

"They were all good. I enjoy everything I do that was offered in the course," she said.

Kohnke had this final piece of advice for future participants.

"It’s hard work, but very rewarding in the end," she said.

Michelle Jech, owner of Michelle’s Touch of Class in Dexter, agreed.

"It definitely helps," Jech said. "I like the program because it focuses on what you’re going to do after graduation. There are no generals to deal with."

Since graduating from Riverland in 1994, Jech has done really well in business for herself; she wanted to work in a salon since she was in high school back in 1985.

Jech thought the program was done really well. She was particularly impressed with the outside speakers brought in, as well as the extended education opportunities plus the program.

New Directions, which Jech believed was under a different name when she attended, has also provided her with highly qualified assistants.

Having hired two recent Riverland graduates, Jech said that they’re both properly trained. She doesn’t have to work with them that much.

"I’m impressed with how well trained they are," Jech said. "Especially just starting out."

Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of the program is that it allows individuals to explore their options. Kvenvold said that it’s up to the student how much time they can, or want, to put into completing their education.

Some people decide to come back full time, she said, while others simply "get their feet wet," coming back one night a week.

Depending on an individual’s major and personal schedule, they could finish their degree in as little as three months; others take three or four years.

Most majors can be completed in less than two years.

If, after attending a New Directions session, an individual decides he/she wants to return to the classroom, Riverland helps in a number of ways.

First and foremost, Kvenvold said, they must take a placement test. The test is required of all students who have not taken previous college math and writing courses.

Once their skill level is determined, they are then placed in appropriate classes.

Another important test administered is the Discover placement test. Computer assessed, this test asks questions such as ‘Is money important to you?’ ‘What are you good at?’ ‘Are you creative?’

By asking these questions, possible career options can be determined.

Kvenvold stressed that these tests are not to be given to an individual for their own personal use and interpretations.

"They are tools to facilitate discussion between the counselor and the individual taking the test," she said.

If individuals find themselves under great amounts of stress during this time, counselors are available to discuss personal issues, ranging from spousal troubles to ways for dealing with their own anger.

The Student Resource and Referral Center also offers counseling for single parents, non-traditional gender students (women going into engineering, etc.), as well as displaced homemakers, whose spouse, for whatever reason, can no longer support them any longer.

New Directions is available for everyone, no matter what their age. If eligible, individuals may even receive financial assistance; if they are at least 62-years of age, individuals may register for less expensive classes, based on space available.

For those individuals who have been out of high school and college for at least seven years, they may apply for the Alliss grant, allowing them to take one four credit class for free.

There is additional criteria, however; the class taken must be counted towards their associate’s degree, they may not have a bachelor’s degree, they must not be receiving any other financial aid, and must be a resident of Minnesota.

New Directions programs will be held today at the Albert Lea campus and Thursday at the Austin East campus building from 6:30-8:00 p.m.

Interested participants who have any questions may contact Riverland Community College, Deb Kvenvold, Assistant Director of Admissions, 1900 Eighth Avenue NW, Austin, MN 55912; Telephone (507) 433-0688.