Red Deer College chemistry instructor Linda Bjorge (centre) consults with and guides students Celine Kassam and Logan Mendenhall through their lab assignment.

Work by day, upgrade at night

Megan Vass of Red Deer doesn’t have one bad thing to say about her experience at night school. The 25-year-old decided she wanted to study nursing more than a year ago but needed to do some upgrading before she would be admitted into the college program.

Megan Vass of Red Deer doesn’t have one bad thing to say about her experience at night school.

The 25-year-old decided she wanted to study nursing more than a year ago but needed to do some upgrading before she would be admitted into the college program.

After being “severely” disappointed with the first outreach school she attended, she happened upon the Red Deer Public Schools Community Programs night school option.

The only program officially earmarked as an exclusive “night school” in Red Deer, the credit classes offered by Community Programs at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School run two nights a week from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

The 2014 spring semester began on Feb. 6 and wraps up on June 16.

“Night school complimented my schedule and overall the staff were so accommodating. They really want you to do well,” said Vass, who could continue working during the day and study at night, an option not available in other upgrading programs at outreach schools or even at the college itself.

“They were just fantastic because you have the opportunity to actually take classes with a teacher present so any questions you have are directly answered. That really helps you succeed.”

Vass started her studies at Red Deer College to obtain a practical nursing diploma in September and hopes to get into a surgical nursing program afterwards.

The night school she attended is continuing to expand and will include a Math 30-1 course this semester as a teacher-taught class.

“A lot of students have a hard time, understandably, teaching themselves math and at that level — the university entrance level — they really need to be able to get it so we hired a new teacher to teach that course only,” said Rixta Moritz, community programs co-ordinator.

All other night classes are taught through a module delivery method, which consists of an individual workbook and one teacher helps multiple students in multiple courses.

“You’re usually in a room of other students, some perhaps in the same discipline, such as science, but not the same course. And there will be one teacher there,” Moritz explained.

In the fall, Community Programs is also hoping to run an English 30-1 class for new Canadians, to help foster a greater understanding of the requirements to study at a post-secondary level.

The night school program averages around 60 students per semester, about 10 per cent of which are under the age of 19, so the classes are free for them. The others are required to pay $600, plus book fees.

According to Moritz, students are on average 22 to 28 years old but there are a few older ones, such as a retired 65-year-old woman who wanted to upgrade in order to study nursing.

“What largely happens is they finish high school, go out into the work world for a while and then decide they want to go back to school but they’re missing one or two subjects. So that’s why they come to us.”

While Red Deer College does not offer any evening upgrading courses at this time, the school does have its own Career and Academic Preparation (CAP) Program, geared for adult students looking to brush up their academic skills, meet entrance requirements for post-secondary programs or work on a high school equivalency diploma.

There is always a high demand for CAP, said Angela Campbell, advising/recruiting co-ordinator at the college.

The program offers 15-week courses (starting in September) or seven-week courses (starting in the spring) with face-to-face instruction and free tutoring throughout.

Most students are in class for an hour each day, with additional lab time for those in science courses.

“The majority of our classes are 30 to 40 students each and this academic year there are five sections in the Math 30-1 equivalent,” Campbell said. “New this year, we will be offering a Math 30-2 equivalent in September because of changes to the bachelor of science programs. We foresee it being very popular.”

One of the benefits to the college’s method of upgrading is the math and English assessments done with every student upon entering the program, Campbell said.

“That’s how we determine where they sit in our levels. A student that has been out of high school for years may assess at a different level than what they may think. If we have someone wanting to start an engineering program, we don’t want them starting at Math 30-1 and just passing and struggling further down in their studies.”

All students entering CAP also see an advisor to discuss career goals and develop a learning plan.

“We want all our students to be as successful as they can be,” Campbell said.

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