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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Workforce Achievers Value Education, and Know Where to Get It

(WATERBURY, CT) - On Tuesday, August 28, 14 NVCC students were introduced to key faculty and staff around campus as the newest members of the Workforce Achievers Value Education (WAVE) program. These students were selected from a pool of more than 180 applicants to join the program’s 20 returning students.

WAVE students are accepted based on academic qualification and federal eligibility requirements through the Workforce Investment Act. They commit to attending NVCC full-time while working a limited number of hours for at least one year and meeting daily with program administrators through one-on-one conferences, lunches and/or classes.

As a group, WAVE students are known for overcoming major obstacles to achieve their goals. Many deal with financial, transportation and other barriers to attending college. In 2010, many of the WAVE students testified alongside College administration to fight for funding for evening bus service, which began in October 2011.

Cathy Hardy, director of financial aid, can attest to the determination and perseverance of students.

“One day I was shopping and I ran into a WAVE student who happened to work in the store I was in,” said Hardy. “He recognized me from the school. Once I told him I worked in financial aid it was over. He takes his breaks when I go in the store now so I can help him with his FAFSA!”

That student, Alex Ortega, grinned widely while nodding his substantiation of the story to the orientation group. Alex has been living with his godparents since his father passed away two years ago. With his mother living in Mexico, he has learned to accept a lot of responsibility at a young age. Only 19, Alex is looking forward to the support and opportunities that the WAVE program will offer him.

“I’m really happy to be at Naugatuck Valley Community College,” said Alex. “Eventually I will get a master’s degree but I really wanted to start here. NVCC is a good place for me to get my feet wet.”

Because of his impromptu financial aid help sessions, Alex received a federal pell grant, which allowed him to begin classes this fall.

Between program administrators, committed staff and faculty and the program’s cohort, students like Alex will receive all the academic, student and individual support they are willing to, according to WAVE veteran Angie Galarza, a third-year student, mentor and assistant to new program coordinator Susan Houlihan.

“I really feel like I found myself when I went into the WAVE program,” said Angie. “It’s so hard to find a group of people that you really want to be a part of, and this is the most tight-knit group of people I’ve ever met.”

Angie will graduate this May with an associate degree in general studies and a passion for the exploration of human interconnectedness, which she attributes in large part to the “open-mindedness and intelligence” she was met with by her mentors and peers. She sums up the WAVE program as being with the right people and the right teachers and in the right classes all at once.

“I’m excited for whatever comes next but I am really sad that it’s almost over,” said Angie, though she insists that graduation won’t be goodbye. “This school has done wonders for me. I will always come back.”

The WAVE program is coordinated by Susan Houlihan and Mitch Holmes, director of Business and Professional Studies at NVCC. For more information on the program, call 203-596-2164.

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