BCC G.E.D. Program To Be Implemented City-Wide As Part Of Young Men’s Initiative

The Bloomberg Administration has tapped Bronx Community College’s I.M.P.A.C.T. peer-mentoring system to be a model for G.E.D. programs across the city.

The system, developed over the past four years at BCC, will be implemented as part of the administration’s Young Men’s Initiative, which was announced on Thursday, August 4. The $127 million publicly and privately funded initiative is intended to boost achievement among black and Latino men in New York City.

The acronym stands for “Improving My Progress In College Today,” Its main goal is to push G.E.D. students towards college, rather than simply a high school equivalency degree. It operates as a subdivision of the school’s overall G.E.D. program, called Future NOW.

The BCC I.M.P.A.C.T. program was officially started in 2007 by a group of recent graduates from the school’s G.E.D. program that were enrolled in college and had been informally mentoring G.E.D. students.

“When you come to this program, it’s all about college, from day one,” said Will Ruiz, one of the program’s founders.

Ruiz, 23, is a graduate of BCC’s G.E.D. program and currently finishing his bachelor’s at Lehman College. After earning his G.E.D. in 2006, he returned to BCC to work and chat with students, becoming one of the first mentors, before I.M.P.A.C.T. was officially recognized and funded. The St. Ann’s Avenue resident is now leadership director for the school’s G.E.D. program

There will be seven mentors, some paid, some volunteers, for the 2011-12 school year. There will be over 200 incoming G.E.D. students, and each is required to participate in I.M.P.A.C.T.

With college as the goal, mentors mainly work with students who never made it through traditional high schools on how to deal with the logistics of higher education.

“We get them familiar with the college process,” Ruiz said. “Things like applications, grading systems, add/drop, the semester system.”

Students are also encouraged to go beyond the minimum G.E.D. requirements so they will not have to waste time and money taking remedial classes when they are getting their associates or bachelors.

“We build a relationship from the first day, so a student can come to us when they need some help in dealing with the frustration of math or reading,” said college prep instructor Jean D. Yao.

The leaders of I.M.P.A.C.T. will start the city-wide implantation by training G.E.D. program administrators at two yet-to-be-decided schools this summer, so that they will be ready to open in September.

Elizabeth Payamps has worked in BCC’s G.E.D. program for the past 13 years and has been its director for the past five. She, along with Ruiz, Yao, and two other BCC G.E.D. program employees, will lead the training.

She said being recognized by the Mayor’s office was an honor, but implementing I.M.P.A.C.T. across the city will be a challenge.

“It was amazing,” Payamps said. “But it takes a lot of management, and effort. There’s a lot that goes into a program like this.”

Payamps said that 90 percent of participants in I.M.P.A.C.T. apply to college and 67 percent complete at least two semesters. Ruiz agreed that being selected for expansion was a thrill, but he knew the hardest work laid ahead.

“We were surprised. We were psyched,” Ruiz said. “But what was in the back of my mind were the expectations, because we have been so successful.”

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