Completion Coach motivates Weekend College students to persist to graduation

Jessica Falla, Weekend College Completion Coach
Jessica Falla, Completion Coach for the Weekend College at Lee College, counsels a student during a session in her office. The Completion Coach works with Weekend College students to offer support and help break down barriers they encounter before enrolling in the program and through graduation. A free information session about the Weekend College is set for Thursday, April 13.

BAYTOWN, TX — As a community college graduate who took developmental classes, commuted to her Queens, N.Y., campus and juggled schoolwork with caring for her grandmother, Jessica Falla is especially well suited for her role as the Completion Coach for Lee College’s innovative Weekend College program.

Whenever a Weekend College student needs help with a problem inside or outside of the classroom, Falla is only a phone call, text message, email or visit away — and many students credit the consistent, warm and knowledgeable support of their Completion Coach for motivating them to conquer challenges and persist toward their degree.

“The common ground is that everyone is filled to the brim with responsibilities. No one can be just a college student; they have all of these roles they play that have to remain intact even while they go to school,” said Falla, who holds a Master of Education degree in school counseling.

“I understand what it’s like being pulled in so many different directions, and I was always grateful for the personal interactions I had with staff and counselors when I was in college,” she said. “I want students to walk into my office and feel they can relax and open up. Whatever barrier they’re facing, I take it on with them and we will overcome it together.”

Weekend College students can earn associate’s degrees in less than 2 years by attending classes only on Friday evenings and Saturdays. Funded through a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the program caters to adult learners and others who want to advance their careers but have to balance classes with work and other responsibilities.

A free information session for prospective Weekend College students will be held from 7-8:30 p.m., Thursday, April 13, in the Rundell Hall Conference Center on campus. Faculty, staff and current students will outline the five different majors offered — Transfer in Allied Health, General Studies – Social Science Concentration, Business Administration and Management, Industrial Welding Technology and Computer and Network Maintenance Technology — and give details about enrolling for the Fall 2017 semester. Information will be available in English and Spanish, and refreshments will be provided.

Additional information sessions are set for May 21, June 10, July 18 and Aug. 2.

Weekend College students are kept together in small cohorts of 18-25 people from enrollment to graduation or transfer. Courses are offered at multiple Lee College locations to make them more convenient, and many are delivered in a hybrid format that blends online and classroom instruction. With block scheduling, students know exactly which courses to take and when they will be held — and once accepted into the program, they are guaranteed to always have the classes they need for their degree.

For her part as Completion Coach, Falla considers herself to be a student advocate. She regularly drops by classes and makes herself available on Fridays, Saturdays and any day students need her. She helps them decide if the Weekend College is the right fit for their goals; connects them to campus and community resources; invites them to bring their children and families to college events; and breaks down the parts of applying for and attending college that overwhelm them the most.

It’s also important to encourage students to take ownership of their education and be accountable for their own learning and success, said Falla, who enjoys being a role model and trusted adviser as they pursue higher education and work toward a brighter future.

“I get to know these students for two years and watch them graduate,” she said. “We’re very lucky to see them grow, adjust and reach their reward. It’s a great and wonderful experience.”

For more details about the Weekend College at Lee College or the upcoming information sessions, contact Falla at 281.425.6421 or Outreach and Recruitment Specialist Sharon Guillory at 832.556.5776, or visit www.lee.edu/weekend.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Weekend College gives working students time to pursue degree

Free information session on Feb. 23 will detail unique program that caters to adult learners

Two welders working on a project
Industrial Welding Technology is one of five degree program options that students can choose from in the Weekend College at Lee College, which is hosting a free information session on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017, in the Rundell Hall Conference Center on campus. Additional program options include General Studies Transfer degrees in Allied Health and Social Science Concentration, Business Administration and Management and Computer and Network Maintenance Technology.

BAYTOWN, TX — As a mother of four working full time to support her family, Raquel Velazquez didn’t think she would ever be able to go back to school and earn the college degree she always wanted. Then she learned about the Weekend College at Lee College.

Through the Weekend College, students earn associate’s degrees in less than 2 years by attending classes only on Friday evenings and Saturdays. Funded through a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the program caters to adult learners and others who want to advance their careers but have to juggle school with work and other responsibilities.

The first of several free information sessions for prospective Weekend College students will be held from 7-8:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 23,  in the Rundell Hall Conference Center on campus. Participants will hear from faculty, staff and current students about the five different program options – General Studies -Transfer in Allied Health, General Studies – Social Science Concentration, Business Administration and Management, Industrial Welding Technology and Computer and Network Maintenance Technology – and learn how to enroll in the program for the Fall 2017 semester. Information will be available in both English and Spanish, and refreshments will be provided.

Additional information sessions will be held March 4, April 13, May 21, June 10, July 18 and Aug. 2.

“It sounded like it was going to work for me,” said Velazquez, who picked up a flyer about the Weekend College while helping her daughter register for classes. She entered the program just as her son and daughter were getting started at Lee College and will be the first of them to graduate, earning an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Administration and Management in May.

Of the first cohort of students to enroll in the Weekend College in Fall 2015, fully 65 percent are expected to complete their degree programs within three years or less – significantly more than the state average of 12 percent.

Grant director Victoria Marron attributes the high success rate to the unique design of the Weekend College program. The same groups of 18-25 students are kept together from enrollment to graduation or transfer. Courses are offered at multiple Lee College locations to make them more convenient, and many are delivered in a hybrid format that blends online and classroom instruction. Block scheduling ensures students know exactly which courses to take and when they will be held, and Weekend College courses are never dropped or filled to capacity. Once accepted into the program, students will always have the classes they need for their degree.

Weekend College students work with a completion coach who helps them apply for the program, secure financial aid and conquer any challenges that arise while they are enrolled in school and even after graduation. They also receive personalized advising, financial assistance and round-the-clock tutoring as needed.

Initially “terrified” to return to school and unsure how she would make time for everything on her lengthy to-do list, Velazquez said she  now encourages others to consider the Weekend College. Having guaranteed classes and a cohort of classmates with whom she has forged strong connections make completing the program easier than she expected.

“Looking back on it, it just happens; time just flies and everything ends up working out,” Velazquez said. “What I tell people is that if I can find the time, you can find the time. If I can do it, you can do it. Ask questions, contact a counselor, get all the information you can and see if it’s a good fit for you.”

For more details about the Weekend College at Lee College or the upcoming information sessions, contact Completion Coach Jessica Falla at 281.425.6421 or Outreach and Recruitment Specialist Sharon Guillory at 832.556.5776, or visit www.lee.edu/weekend.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.