This summer 48 Project Quest students made college connections by registering for their first college course, getting their official school I.D., and experiencing college campus life as a commuter student. With obvious enthusiasm, students became familiar with their campus while building meaningful relationships with instructors and other students.
Project QUEST is a free, summer dual-enrollment program hosted by Hillsborough Community College. A selected group of students with disabilities seeking a standard diploma are invited to participate in Project QUEST. The selected high school students are given an opportunity to earn both college credits (6 electives) and high school credits (1 elective) cover the course of a three-week time period. According to ESE Instructional Support and Transition Coordinator Michelle Correll, “participants will not only get a jump-start on their college education but will also experience life on a college campus.”
ESE teacher Dana Barfield expressed how rewarding it was to work with Project Quest. Dana, the self-proclaimed Quest Momma, shared that her primary job is to "ease the initial jitters, motivate, and ultimately encourage students to reach for more.”
Nick Jennings, a rising 12th grader at Gaither High School dreams to go to college and accomplish big things. When talking to Nick it’s apparent how excited he is to go to college. According to Nick the acting and broadcasting classes have now prepared him to interview people. Once he graduates, Nick says, “I will be able to take this skill and use it in my field of study. I also plan to use this skill when I go to New York City for New Year’s Eve. I plan to interview people when the ball drops.”
HCC SouthShore (adjunct) and Armwood High School instructor Bruce Burnham conveys that his Quest groups are “enthusiastic students working hard to overcome their disabilities.” Bruce continues to say that he “really appreciates their attitudes, and willingness to work hard to gain skills such as time management, task completion, study skills, and the importance of following a syllabus.” The majority of the students do not want to be actors or broadcasters but are looking to overcome shyness and gain meaningful social interaction to build self-awareness, confidence, and useful skills.
This summer, Project QUEST was offered at HCC’s Ybor and SouthShore campuses. Between the two campuses four college level courses were offered: Broadcast News, Acting 1, College Success, and Psychology of Personal Growth.
It’s apparent that as Quest students gained a sense of pride and ownership they discovered strengths within themselves and learned the meaning of true teamwork. These skills will enhance their transition into postsecondary education. For more information about Project Quest or other resources call the Hillsborough County Public Schools ESE Transition Office at 813-273-7030.
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