LEMOORE — Going from high school to college can be nerve-wracking, but for students with disabilities, the transition can be even tougher — which is why West Hills College Lemoore’s Disabled Students Program and Services created the ALPS Academy.
ALPS, which stands for Access, Learn, Progress and Succeed, is a free summer program intended to help ease the transition from high school to college for students with disabilities. The program was held this week before classes begin Aug. 11.
“The transition from high school to college is hard for any student but for a student with a disability it can be more challenging,” said Maria Gonzalez, WHCL Disabled Students Program and Services counselor and one of the program coordinators. “The ALPS Academy eases the transition for students with disabilities by teaching learning strategies to successfully compete in the classroom, introducing campus resources, and teaching students how to navigate the college landscape.”
Lataria Hall, associate dean of categorical programs, said the program bridges the gap between high school, where support services are readily available to students, and college, where the students have to seek out support services for themselves.
“We really want to make sure that we give our students the tools that they need to be successful and complete school,” Hall said.
During the week-long academy, students identified and practiced essential skills needed for college success, like how to become an advocate for resources, how to be successful in the classroom, and how to use assistive technology that best meets their needs.
In college, students with disabilities have to know about their rights and learn how to advocate for themselves, Hall said. This self-advocacy includes letting professors know about their disability and making sure accommodations are available.
Each day of the week in the program had a theme, including Major Monday, Techno Tuesday, Wise Wednesday, Transition Thursday and Fearless Friday. What the students learned on any given day was tailored to the theme.
This is the second year the academy has taken place, and it has grown significantly from five students last year to 19 students this year.
Although it can be hard to get students to give up a week of their summer for a program like this, Gonzalez said the students have been consistently attending and participating.
Gonzalez said one of things the students have progressed on is their knowledge of Canvas, which is the online learning management system most teachers at WHCL use to put up their assignments and course documents. She said navigating Canvas can be difficult for new students, but the ALPS students are now more comfortable with the system.
The program also covers the different technology and software that are available to students that can help make the learning process easier for them. These include text-to-speech systems that can help students with learning disabilities.
Both Jose Romero and Megan Proctor heard about the program from one of their counselors at Hanford West High School.
Proctor said the week has gone well, and she’s learned some of the different computer programs that can be used to assist her in her education.
“What surprised me is that there are so many programs that can help people through their classes,” Proctor said. “I didn’t know there were so many options available.”
Romero said the program has been beneficial to him because it made him realize that he doesn’t have to do everything by himself because there are help and resources out there for him.
Without the program, Romero and Proctor said they would have been lost when they started school and probably would have struggled.
“I don’t think I would have known any of this information if I just went to class on the first day,” Romero said.
“I’m actually happy that this program was available to students with disabilities because I know I would have struggled a lot in my classes,” Proctor said.
Proctor, a culinary student, and Romero, a general education student, said they’re excited about their first day of classes.
Even after the students complete the academy, Gonzalez said counselors will meet with them on a regular basis to check their progress and make sure they are still on track with their education.
All of the ALPS students will have access to one-on-one tutors, group tutoring, workshops and counselor support to address any barriers they are facing throughout their time at WHCL, Hall said.
“We’re really happy with the success,” Gonzalez said. “We hope it continues to grow and that next year we get even more students.”