Getting a fresh start

A Daytona State College program helps adults prepare to go back to school.

Daytona State College’s (DSC) Fresh Start launched 42 years ago in the college’s Women’s Center with a vision to prepare women to enter the workforce with confidence and training in modern skills.

Now, the Women’s Center is the Center for Women & Men, and the Fresh Start program has adapted to changing times, too. As program funding changed and community needs evolved, the center merged Fresh Start classes to offer a dynamic experience open to all genders and ages 18 and up, expanding to four campuses across two counties.

Fresh Start is a four-week program for adults who want to get back to school, but aren’t sure where or how to begin. It’s for busy parents working hard to get by, not knowing what programs are available to fulfill their dreams. It’s for the divorced or widowed who have been overwhelmed by a major life transition and need support to move into a career. And, it’s for the young adults who need help researching careers to make an informed choice of academic path before heading to admissions.

Average Fresh Start students are middle-aged and looking for progressive career paths, ready to focus on their own success after years of giving and sacrificing to others, often working up to three minimum-wage jobs. Many Fresh Start students are unemployed or underemployed, lacking the skills and confidence needed to get training and jobs that will bring them above poverty level to financial security and economic stability.

Fresh Start helps these students build self-confidence by improving computer literacy, typing skills and research skills. They’re exposed to information about career and technical programs at the college, scholarship opportunities, one-on-one assistance with the college application process, financial literacy and life skills, soft skills and employability skills training.

There are now thousands of Fresh Start graduates all over the country working, living and sharing about the life-changing benefits of this program. One of them is Teresa Pope, a former displaced homemaker who found herself and her children homeless after a broken marriage.

“Fresh Start was the biggest turning point in my life, it gave me hope,” Pope said in a recent article. She now heads the Housing Authority in New Smyrna Beach, dedicated to a life of helping others and often referring her clients to Fresh Start.

Students finish Fresh Start knowing they are now part of a network of support as they begin their new journey – they belong to our center family. As they become college students, they have access to all programs and services in the Center for Women & Men, to include child-care assistance, scholarships for tuition, uniforms, books and supplies, a lending library for free textbook rentals, homeless student services, a clothing closet for free career-ready attire, affordable healthcare and counseling services.

As Fresh Start Manager Bonnie Thurman says, “Fresh Start is a game changer!”

Does your college have a program to help adults prepare to go back to school? Sound off at LinkedIn.