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Homeschoolers at the College

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By Tammy M. Cardwell

On July 22, homeschoolers and college administrators gathered at San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas. The college's expressed intent in inviting homeschoolers to this meeting was to explore ways in which it can open its doors to us. After serving us an excellent lunch and sharing a few of their thoughts and ideas, college representatives handed each table enormous pads of paper and markers (on easels, to make it convenient), encouraging us to list anything and everything the college could offer that would be of benefit to homeschoolers. Needless to say the markers flew, and when each group shared its list at the end of the brainstorming session, we found we had many desires in common and heard some excellent suggestions that few had thought to include. With these lists in hand, and volunteers from the ranks of those who attended this luncheon, the college will create a task force that will work toward implementing many of the ideas generated that day.

I left the college brimming with enthusiasm, looking forward to seeing the results of this groundbreaking meeting. Not content to wait for news, however, I pulled up an email window almost immediately. I dashed off a note to Steve Lestarjette, associate vice chancellor of marketing and enrollment management (Whew!), otherwise known as 'the man in charge,' and asked him a few questions just for the record. I knew I would be sharing his answers with you, of course.

What was the purpose of the July 22 meeting?

San Jacinto College is aware of a large and growing number of homeschool students in its service area. We believe that the needs of these students and the mission of San Jacinto College make a partnership highly desirable -- a natural match!

Our July 22 meeting was intended to tell homeschool parents that the college is genuinely interested in helping them in their homeschool efforts, and to hear what parents had to say about their needs and experiences. We believe that partnerships are best created when all parties have ownership.

So, July 22 was a red-letter day in the history of San Jacinto College and the homeschool movement in Houston. From it were born the seeds of cooperation which will help a public institution with a $77 million budget make its facilities, services and resources available to a valued community ally -- homeschool educators and students.

Who will comprise this task force?

I am most optimistic for the future. Our next step is to convene a meeting to divide those ideas listed as priorities into short-term and long-term goals, and begin drafting responses to each of them. My intention is to host a follow-up meeting with the full task force in late September or early October, and begin implementing the plan by January, the start of our spring academic semester.

The task force is comprised of homeschool parents and San Jacinto College administrators. Parents are now "signing-up" via an evaluation form they were giving at the luncheon. The San Jacinto College team includes many individuals who presented at the luncheon. As administrators responsible for important areas of the college, they are in advantageous position to give quality direction to the process, making certain that our recommendations conform to state laws and codes, and do not create unforeseen conflict with existing San Jacinto College policies.

Just how closely will the college be working with these homeschoolers?

Each member of the San Jacinto College team is a supporter of homeschool education, and sees the potential good to be gained for both students and college. We are here to open doors! Just how close the college works with homeschoolers will be determined by the counsel of parents themselves! We intend to implement the great majority of their recommendations; if students make use of the classes, facilities and services, and the relationship is positive for all concerned, I believe we have opportunity to create a model relationship for every college in the country to follow.

What were your initial impressions of the meeting?

The meeting, I must say, was a very pleasant experience for all of us at San Jacinto College. Many suggestions raised by parents confirmed our assessment of homeschool needs, but there were quite a few surprises as well! I appreciated the fact that parents took our sincerity at face value. The comments and recommendations expressed a very knowledgeable view of education, a high degree of resourcefulness, outstanding organizational abilities, and an admirable sense of purpose and mission. I came away from the meeting fully assured that our original assessment and desire to partner with homeschoolers were well founded. Many of my colleagues who attended the meeting have called to state the same opinion.

What were some of the most popular suggestions made?

These "statements" represent the highest priorities identified by parents at the July 22 luncheon:

Expand dual credit opportunities to homeschoolers.
Provide a variety of Continuing Education courses and labs for high school level homeschoolers, especially courses in math, science and literature.
Maintain a high moral content of required literature and courses.
Provide college facilities as needed for sports teams, meetings, extracurricular activities and events.
Place a counselor on each campus who has specific and broad knowledge of homeschool needs.
Provide a student activity card which will allow homeschoolers to attend sports events, plays and concerts, as well as use the college library.

There were many other suggestions, as well.

What is San Jacinto College already offering homeschoolers?

The college has scheduled its first Continuing Education courses for homeschoolers at our South campus this fall. Courses are:

Advanced Math
Algebra 1 (a)
Algebra 2 (a)
Biology Lab (a)
Chemistry Lab (a)

For further information about courses time, cost or curriculum, call the college at 281-922-3440.

The San Jacinto College Foundation announced on July 22 the creation of a scholarship for a homeschool student in the name of Laura Kaye Smithers. The college is committed to funding this scholarship, but will turn to homeschoolers to help endow the scholarship as a perpetual memorial to Laura. We will ask input from the Smithers family and homeschool parents to write criteria for the scholarship in the hope that a deserving recipient can be announced by the end of the current academic year.

How can homeschoolers (and maybe other colleges?) find out more about what San Jacinto is doing? For any question about San Jacinto College and the Homeschool Advisory Task Force, call Steve Lestarjette, associate vice chancellor of marketing and enrollment management, at 281-998-6150, or e-mail to slesta@sjcd.cc.tx.us.

Update

Thank you, Leslie, for letting us know about this important update.

At the SETHSA Conference, Mr. Lestarjette told us that there is a planned meeting with the leaders of the North Harris Montgomery Community College District at the end of June. This is GREAT news for those of us on the north side of Houston !!!

Leslie

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