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Cisco gives $100,000 to Gwinnett Tech

Gwinnett Tech President Sharon Bartels (holding check, left) and Connie Jackson, Cisco Program Manager for Community Relations (holding check, right), are surrounded by Gwinnett Tech students Priscilla Williams, Felicia Thomas-Hollman, Leslie Mae Earle, Donna Sparrow and Patricia Gordon, who have all completed Accelerated Learning Program courses. (Special Photo)

Gwinnett Tech President Sharon Bartels (holding check, left) and Connie Jackson, Cisco Program Manager for Community Relations (holding check, right), are surrounded by Gwinnett Tech students Priscilla Williams, Felicia Thomas-Hollman, Leslie Mae Earle, Donna Sparrow and Patricia Gordon, who have all completed Accelerated Learning Program courses. (Special Photo)

LAWRENCEVILLE — Cisco has awarded Gwinnett Technical College a $100,000 grant to fund the college’s Accelerated Learning Program, which provides academic support to students entering college to improve their academic progress and further their success at the college level.

It marks Cisco’s second year of funding for the unique program, which provides intense and accelerated short-format courses in English, reading and mathematics as a way to shorten the time and need for traditional learning support programs.

This early intervention is a means to ultimately improve retention and college completion, enabling graduates to earn the skills and college credentials necessary to successfully enter the workforce.

“Our Accelerated Learning Program speaks to a national focus for higher education. We must develop new and innovative methods and programs to help more students stay in college, complete their education and enter the workforce with a marketable skill. Cisco’s funding of the program reflects their commitment to education, to the economic development of our community, and to the elevation of our workforce. They are a true leader in this effort,” said Sharon Bartels, president of Gwinnett Tech.

In recent years, emphasis has shifted from access to higher education and enrollment to student completion and attainment of a college credential that carries value in the workplace.

An examination of the barriers to student completion reveals that the need for remediation is vast, and placement into Learning Support classes frequently delays students’ progress and derails their educational and career goals.

Cisco’s funding of the accelerated learning program at GTC assists with transforming remediation by streamlining students’ paths to college-readiness, improving their fundamental skills, and allowing students to progress more rapidly toward college completion.

“There’s a need to close the gap in education — for students of all ages — particularly in the area of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. It was a priority for us to use our funding dollars to help students who might need extra support to complete their education and training, so that they can ultimately enter the workforce,” said Connie Jackson, community relations program manager at Cisco. “Our partnership with Gwinnett Tech has made a measurable difference in the community, and we’re very proud to help.”

In its first year, 700 students completed the Accelerated Learning Program, exiting learning support courses 40 percent faster than previously possible.

Donna Sparrow, who completed the Accelerated Learning Program and is now in Gwinnett Tech’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography program, said, “This program made the difference in whether or not I was able to go to college. I didn’t have the time to go through all the remedial classes indicated. I needed something quick to learn some basic math skills and the Accelerated Learning Program did it for me.”

Cisco is a long-term Gwinnett Tech business partner and plays an active role in the college’s growth and development. In 2011, Cisco donated $75,000 to Gwinnett Tech’s Legacy of Lives campaign to help fund the college’s Health Information Technology degree program and GTC’s Life Sciences Center. The company was also a champion of Gwinnett Tech’s George Busbee International Center for Workforce Development, donating $1 million to support the development of the facility. The 350-seat Cisco Auditorium honors that gift.