Go to the Head of the Class: College Readiness Programming at the Library

Young adult librarian Elise Sheppard of Lone Star College-Cyfair Branch Library spearheaded an initiative to offer college readiness programs and give high schoolers a leg up before they get on campus.
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Lone Star College-CyFair Teen Librarian Elise Sheppard conducting a Study Skills workshop to high school juniors and seniors in the CyFair College Academy.

Why wait to offer study skills to academically troubled college students when they needed them beforehand? There's a bit of a backstory to how the College Readiness program came to be at the Lone Star College-Cyfair Branch Library. I work for Lone Star College-CyFair (LSC-CF), one of the campuses of the Lone Star College System (LSCS) in metropolitan Houston, Texas, which has a shared library system with the Harris County Public Library. From 2004–2008, the Counseling Department at LSCS in which I am a teen/reference Librarian, created and offered study skills classes called HUMD (Human Development) for our college students who were in trouble academically. Observing those sessions in 2007, I thought the information imparted by the counselors was invaluable and could benefit middle and high school students. The information could help students successfully maneuver through and graduate from high school, as well as from higher education. I decided to host my own classes based on the HUMD model. Our counselors generously gave me all of their class material which I revised to fit pre-college teens. summersession2rev

The Writing & Speaking workshop, also conducted by Sheppard, is popular with students.

My unique position serving teens in a completely meshed college academic/public library provided me with the resources and target group to achieve my goal.  In 2008 when LSCS became a stakeholder in the Achieving the Dream initiative, I incorporated college readiness workshops into my teen library programs. Achieving the Dream is a national course of action for community colleges to help students succeed in higher education, especially those students who have a variety of obstacles that endanger the successful completion of their associate degrees or workforce certificates. The initiative focuses primarily on students who are African American, first of family in college, or low-income. Achieving the Dream makes the college accountable for putting educational support in place for students to be successful. In conjunction with the Achieving the Dream initiative, LSCS developed an accredited pre-college student success class called EDUC 1300 for students who tested into remedial classes but not into regular college-level classes. Beginning with the current semester academic year, EDUC 1300 has become mandatory for all incoming freshmen.

My study skills sessions for teens, based on our counselors’ HUMD classes and inspired further by EDUC 1300, were divided into eight sections lasting approximately 1-1/2 hours each:

  1. Memory – Short- and long-term memory; retrieval of information; frequent testing assists long-term memory and better test results; strategies used for aiding memory.
  2. Note Taking – The process of taking notes is as important as the notes themselves; effective note taking.
  3. Self-Esteem – How we see ourselves is more important than how others view us; having or lacking self-confidence affects everything we do; self-esteem leads to self-confidence; no one is perfect.
  4. Time Management – We don’t manage time, it manages us; quit procrastinating cold turkey and prioritize; do your most abhorrent or difficult tasks first and get them out of the way.
  5. Writing & Speaking – Prepare a formal three-part outline; how to overcome anxiety; guides and principles for writing well; lead your readers or listeners so they will want to continue reading/listening; the conclusion is as important as the introduction; rewriting.
  6. Selling Your Marketable Skills & Job Interviewing – We “sell” ourselves to others our whole lives; how to present yourself; resumes; how to, look for, apply for, and interview for a job.
  7. Preparing for an Exam – Study tips; test taking practice; simulating tests.
  8. Test Anxiety & Test Taking – Reducing anxiety; being prepared; test taking strategies – brain dump, eliminating wrong answers, essay questions.
Offered at different times during the year, I found that the best attended sessions were those held during the summer. June through July, the workshops were given once a week, but the most popular summer time frame was in August the week before school started, with back to back sessions, two per day, Monday through Thursday. Special workshops were given to specific requesting groups, such as homeschooled, students who went to private schooled, and even to individuals. One of the teen groups that I felt I could make an impact on and contribute to its mission was the LSC CyFair College Academy that evolved from a LSC-CF pilot program, "Middle School to College." The Academy involved African American and Hispanic middle and high school boys, helping to prepare them for college. As with many of my teen programs—semimonthly classic literature discussions; computer workshops; tutoring/SAT preparation for math, English, chemistry and physics; community service projects; other activities—it appeared to me that only the most motivated teens participated. Many kids who could have benefited from the workshops did not attend. I continue to reach out to these patrons, and also to the school district in our service area, hoping to help them get a jump start on their futures in college or in a workforce program by giving them the tools needed in middle and high school, and in life.
See also:
School and Academic Librarians Must Join Forces to Foster College Readiness
Study Ties College Success to Students’ Exposure to a High School Librarian
 
Elise Sheppard is a young adult librarian and professor at the Harris County Public Library/Lone Star College-CyFair Branch Library, located in Cypress, Texas.

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