Students undergo college ‘boot camp’

By Karassa Stinchcomb
Posted 7/25/18

ORANGE PARK – College was something Emma Rodriguez, 16, never thought about until she attended a special four-day last week at St. Johns River State College.

The four-day “boot camp” taught …

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Students undergo college ‘boot camp’


ORANGE PARK – College was something Emma Rodriguez, 16, never thought about until she attended a special four-day last week at St. Johns River State College.

The four-day “boot camp” taught Rodriguez and 10 other students from the Pace Center for Girls, the fundamentals of college, the importance of wellness and financial literacy.

Rodriguez is going into her senior year and has been in the Pace program since February. She stopped going to public school and started acting out after her parents separated.

“Before attending Pace, I had never thought about attending college,” Rodriguez said. “But when I got to Pace, it became an option and now it’s a dream of mine.”

The July 16-19 camp was a partnership between the Pace Center for Girls and SJR State’s Orange Park campus. Girls from Pace Jacksonville and Pace Clay who are graduating within a 12-calendar month were able to participate in the boot camp.

Each day of the boot camp taught the girls something different about college. On Monday, the girls did a support and vision exercise and then went on a campus tour with the dean and directors from SJRC.

On Tuesday, the student activities coordinator from SJR State discussed the transition into college, the behavioral expectations and code of conduct. The academic advising staff discussed resources available to college students, how to use them and why they are beneficial.

Mind, body and soul was the theme for Wednesday’s class. Study skills, how to read a syllabus, how to read and manage a schedule and how a college classroom is different than a K-12 classroom. After lunch, Penny Powell, communications specialist office of public relations SJR State, did a yoga mat stretch, made smoothies and discussed healthy eating and mindful habits.

Financial services was the main topic on Thursday. Budgeting, how to write and balance a check book and financial aid were discussed. Financial aid advisors explained what financial aid is and how to use it. After lunch on Thursday, the girls were presented with awards from the college marking their successful camp completion.

Anna Lebesch, executive director of SJRC Orange Park campus, said why SJR State wanted to team up with Pace to offer the boot camp.

“One of the reasons we wanted to do the college boot camp was to give the girls an opportunity to see that college is an option for everyone,” Lebesch said. “We also wanted to give them an inside look of what it’s like to be on a college campus and equip them with some of the tools they need to be successful.”

Girls are only in the Pace program for 12-15 months, so they don’t have four years to prepare for college like other students do. The girls involved in the boot camp have been receptive to the program, according to Destani Shadrick, who has been the executive director of Pace Clay for three years.

“We’ve had reports from the staff at the Pace Center that when the girls get back they’re ecstatic and telling everyone what they learned while they’ve been here and have said they feel like they can go to college,” she said.

Jennifer Griner, the career and technical education advisor, thinks the program has been successful at teaching the girls the information they need to be successful.

“We developed this to be more hands-on to show all components of college,” she said. “In the classroom, they are engaged, even though they keep to themselves, I can really see it clicking so it makes me really happy.”

Pace and SJR State would like to continue offering the boot camp for girls in the future.

SJR State provided the facility, instructors and swag bags containing t-shirts, pencils, notebooks and other tools for success. Pace made the t-shirts and provided lunch for the girls. The main donation came from Bailey’s Health and Fitness which donated 20 yoga mats for the wellness portion of the boot camp.

Pace opened in 2015 in Clay County and currently has 50 girls in the program. Girls are in the program for 12-15 months to get caught up academically and get a fresh start.

Rodriguez said she plans on studying business marketing and insurance at SJR State and then transfer to the University of North Florida.


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