Dulce Diaz

LCC student overcomes her share of barriers to higher education.
Dulce Diaz  with Pathways Marcia Koenig and Tracy Henninger

If it wasn’t for their support, I’m not sure I would have finished my program.

As an English language learner, a single mother, and a first-generation college student who immigrated from Mexico, Dulce Diaz has faced her share of barriers to higher education. She is among those who found a nontraditional path to success through the Pathways, Academic Skills,and Services (PASSLane) program. PASS Lane focuses on contextualized remediation and support, allowing students to actively pursue their degree programs while also taking developmental non-PASS Lane courses. This shortens time to completion and workforce entry in fields such as Early Childhood Education (ECE), Health Professions, Culinary Arts, and Industrial Trades. Students in PASS Lane earn stackable certificates that allow them to progress in their careers while earning a degree.

Lane’s Career Pathways program is dedicated to serving students and community members pursuing short-term, workforce-based training that leads to long-term careers. The program is unique in that it addresses the myriad barriers students attempting to access higher education often encounter–connecting them with specialized coaching and access to community resources to ensure their path to success. Rosa Lopez, Career Pathways Coordinator, says “Our fundamental belief is that training and education is the best way to help people into economic mobility,” noting that “traditional paths don’t work for everyone.”

While Diaz was enrolled in Lane’s ECE program, she was referred to PASS Lane, primarily for help with her English language skills. As a participant in the program, she found help that reached far beyond the valuable support she received with her English skills. “They really care about you,” she says. Working in a preschool and taking one class at a time, Diaz found extensive support from Career Pathways coach and advisor, Marcia Koenig and ECE Faculty member, Tracy Henninger.“If it wasn’t for their support, I’m not sure I would have finished my program.” Diaz says.

Career Pathways employs six coaches who work with participants in a number of interconnected programs, including PASS Lane,SNAP Training and Employment Partnership(STEP), and Community Advocacy and Resource Education(CARE). STEP serves students who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(SNAP) benefits by offering coaching, case management, and financial assistance for basic needs. The CARE program is Lane’s response to a state mandate requiring community colleges to employ a benefits navigator. The program goes above and beyond the mandate – all Career Pathways team members are trained as benefits navigators assisting students in applying for programs such as SNAP, affordable housing, tuition assistance and other critical wrap-around services.Career Pathways currently serves 140 students, providing each one with the individualized supports they need to succeed at Lane.

The support Diaz has received over the years has her on the brink of her goal–obtaining an Associate of Applied Science degree in Early Childhood Education. Like so many others, her success is a reflection of Career Pathways’ ability to propel students beyond their barriers to achieve goals that may otherwise have been unobtainable.