American International College is the first, and only, Massachusetts-based campus to offer College Steps, a nonprofit program that provides customized, college support for students with learning and social challenges such as learning disabilities, autism, and executive functioning deficits in an effort to help them achieve success in post-secondary education, work, and life. First established in 2011, College Steps operates on twelve total campuses in six states. The program has been at AIC since 2014.
The 2018-2019 academic year has seen the strongest connection with College Steps and AIC students, staff, and faculty. The program is integrated into nearly every area of the campus community including connections with the Counseling Center, the Saremi Center for Career Development, Tutoring and Writing Center, Student Life, Office of the Registrar, Student Accounts, Dining Services, Learning Services, Athletics, Campus Security, the Theater Department, and the Fitness Center. The Center for Accessibility Services and Academic Accommodations has worked closely with College Steps to assist students in receiving academic accommodations in their courses, providing them with key support enabling them to thrive. According to College Steps Program Coordinator Chris Ryan, “The overwhelming inclusion that the College Steps students have experienced has led to countless opportunities for them to immerse themselves in the College community.”
~ College Steps Program Coordinator Chris Ryan
Additionally, many of the students are heavily involved in co-curricular activities, including supporting the AIC Yellow Jackets teams by attending games and participating in intramural sports such as bowling and floor hockey. Two College Steps students put on their reporter caps to interview fellow students, faculty, and other AIC community members for stories published in the student newspaper.
Four College Steps students registered for and successfully passed courses for credit this past year. Others took courses for audit in subject areas that included criminal justice, theater, art, writing, psychology, history, communication, religious studies, and sports management.
College Steps hired a total of 62 peer mentors during the academic year including twelve international students from Ireland, England, France, Spain, Canada, Serbia, Italy, Croatia, and Australia.
As the academic year drew to a close, a graduation ceremony was held with students, their families, and AIC staff members involved with the program. It was an emotional and meaningful event, energized by the students’ brave personal statements, the mentors’ loving support, and the opportunity to share a window with the AIC community about the special journeys their supportive efforts made possible.
For eight students, graduation marked the end of their time at AIC. Two will be transferring to higher education institutions—one has applied to Holyoke Community College and the other student has been accepted to Keene State College.
American International College embraces diversity while providing access and opportunity to students who are an integral part of our campus community.
By Candy Lash :: Photo by Eugene Deykin