Rock Valley College's "Right Place to Start Program" started with a state grant several years ago, but it came to an end Friday. The state money that funded it is gone.
"Coming in as a first generation college student I just really did not know what to do," RVC student Bryce Thomas said. "I was kind of scared with financial aid and all that stuff."
Thomas said those fears went away because of Right Place to Start. The program provided academic and personal support to RVC students who graduated from a Rockford public high school or lived in the RPS 205 district.
"Life coaches really helped," Thomas said.
Program coordinator Matthew Gargano said that was a big component of the program.
"A lot of these academic issues come from non academic issues, life events. so you really have to address what's going on in the lives of these young men or women," Gargano said.
He said the short term goal was to offer a way up through education at RVC, but they encouraged students to transfer to 4 year colleges as a bigger goal.
“For a lot of students, they've never been outside of Rockford, so its an amazing experience for them to be able to be on a college campus, a 4 year campus, and actually have that visual and have that experience to be able to see themselves," Gargano said.
Gargano said a majority of students who went through the program were more successful than those who didn't. Now that it's gone staff said they'll work to fill the gaps with a new trio program that supports low income minority and first generation students.
"This has been a great program that has served an under served population," RVC President,Mike Mastroianni said. "We're very pleased to have two trio grants that serve similar populations."
The college president said there is some relief from state budget concerns, because the new grant for trio programs is federally funded. Thomas will not need the trio program. He plans to transfer. The hope is for others like him who can't benefit from Right Place to Start can use the TRIO programs instead.
The college president said next week they will have to make some other difficult decisions about other possible cuts, which might mean the loss of jobs and expenses.