Preparing the road ahead

Published 6:04 pm Friday, August 6, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Partnering with Adult Basic Education to create better opportunity


Over the lunch hour on Thursday, Sena Assigbe stood before an audience gathered in the Riverland Community College East Building cafeteria and told his story of change and purpose.

Email newsletter signup

“I’m here today to tell you it’s possible, if you want, to change your life,” Assigbe humbly said. “I’m here today because I’m ready to start again, to give my family their best life.”

Assigbe was one of 29 people to complete this year’s Be Your Best program, a Riverland college prep academy.

Afi Adjowui is a junior at Austin High School, and while she hesitated at first, she ultimately found Be Your Best to be beneficial.

“This program helped me understand English, algebra, and being a better student,” she said. “Thanks to this program, I can say I’m more confident about myself.”

Be Your Best is designed to give people ages 16-22 a hand moving forward. Those enrolling have to fall into one of three categories:

• Low income

• First generation

• Minority group

A completion of the program gives those enrolled a step up.

“For a lot of students, this is a ticket to college,” said Betsy Goetz, an English instructor at the college and Be Your Best Director.

For 15 years, Be Your Best has done the work of preparing those involved, but this year it took another step forward when it added Adult Basic Education, which allows students access to free language skills. Language can be a hurdle for those new to the country.

The results can be impactful for all of those involved.

“It’s life-changing for them, we hope,” Goetz said. “And it’s life changing for us. Everyone feels blessed to be a thread in these students’ confidence.”

To that end, Be Your Best fits snug into Riverland continuing to ensure that students in Austin get the best possible opportunities for education, including the Austin Assurance program.

“Equity,” Goetz said. “It’s all about equity. It’s so gratifying. We’re so proud of their achievement.”

As Thursday’s program kicked off Barb Embacher, Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs had a fitting analogy for the students and their families.

“Every year we learn from what you need and what our community is evolving to be,” she said. “I would like to think of you students as a stick of dynamite. That’s my wish for you to become the most beautiful firework you can.”