More students at Cape's Alternative Education Center becoming interested in college

Friday, February 24, 2012
Dymeisha Moore, a junior at the Cape Girardeau Alternative Education Center, reacts to her bowling shot Thursday at Main Street Lanes in Jackson. The outing was an after-school activity for some of the center's students. (Fred Lynch)

College and planning for the future weren't popular topics among students at the Cape Girardeau Alternative Education Center when school began in August.

That's recently changed, said Scott McMullen, the center's director.

"I have students coming into my office, showing me test scores, or artwork, or asking me about how to get into college," McMullen said.

Their interest is refreshing, and well, McMullen said, somewhat of a miracle, considering the ones asking questions were sent to the center because they weren't making passing grades, missing too many days or repeatedly being sent to the office for discipline.

At Main Street Lanes bowling alley in Jackson on Thursday, Garrett McVey, a senior attending the center, talked about how he never considered college when he was failing his junior year at Central High School.

Ethan Knott bowls with other students from the Cape Girardeau Alternative Education Center Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 at Main Street Lanes in Jackson. (Fred Lynch)

He recently sat in on a lecture in one of the Southeast Missouri State University education courses taught by McMullen, who is also an adjunct professor. McVey noted how college students participate. He said he believes he can do that, too, and will when he moves California and goes to college after he graduates. He wants to be a teacher.

McMullen became director of the center in June. Trent Ball, Southeast's associate dean of educational access programs, heard of McMullen's new position and suggested the two talk. Years ago, the university would send students over to talk to the center's students about college, Ball said. So the two schools formed a partnership, one in which the center's students learn what it would take for them to get into college, what college would be like and how to handle paying for it.

"It's an exposure-type program," McMullen said. "It's to get them thinking about what they need to do if they want to go to college."

McMullen and Ball say students will receive that knowledge with monthly activities the schools have planned.

A Southeast Showcase will be held March 6 for the center's students that will cover the university's admissions requirements, tutorial services, introduce financial aid forms and look at managing money in college. Through the university's student support services, McMullen said there are also plans to match the center's students with university student mentors. Students would be paired by similar interests and get to see how university students work through rigors of studying and scheduling, he said.

McMullen said less than 5 percent of the center's graduates attend a four-year college or university. An average of 51 percent of Central High School graduates entered a four-year college or university from 2008 through 2011, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Each year, around 130 students in fifth through 12th grades in the Cape Girardeau School District attend the center for various reasons. Many need individual attention to stay on track for graduation. The center graduates around 40 students each year and offers many instructional interventions for students, 98 percent of whom are reading below grade level.

Thursday night, a group of the center's students attended a dinner at the Show Me Center for National TRIO Day, which celebrates federal programs that aid low-income, disabled or first-generation students access higher education. They heard McNair scholars speak about the importance of their education and how it helped their careers. Ball said for students like those who attend the center, seeing and being around people who succeed is key.

Dymeisha Moore and James Stroud, juniors at the alternative center, plan to attend Southeast. Both have made up lost credits and could be admitted.

"I've been considering college a lot now," said Moore, who was placed in the center after disciplinary incidents at Central. The partnership between the center and the university has taught her there is a way to get to college, she said.

"They make it like everything's possible," she said. "They put you in contact with what you need to do and show you how to do it."

High school "just wasn't clicking" for Stroud when he was placed in the alternative center, said his mother, Kathy Batz. She said she thought her son might give up on college, but because of the alternative center staff, he has changed his mind. His grades have improved, and he is on track to graduate.

Stroud said he found inspiration by attending the university's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dinner. He wants to be inspired, because he wants to be a writer, he said. He has been praying about getting into college.

"My transcript is not perfect," he said, "but I think it will look good to SEMO that I am doing so much better now and the last couple years."


Pertinent addresses:

301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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