At an early age, Alex Segura-Garcia received a guiding hand toward achieving a higher education. That experience left an impression on him and has shaped his professional career.
Now, as Western Nevada College’s new Jump Start College Coordinator, Segura-Garcia has the opportunity to make a difference for many Northern Nevada students and their families. Helping them prepare to join WNC’s Jump Start College program can ultimately allow students to graduate from high school with both a high school diploma and a WNC associate degree. The exciting possibilities inspire him daily.
“I love this job,” Segura-Garcia said. “My passion lies in working with the students.”
In the sixth grade at Rita Cannan Elementary School in Reno, Segura-Garcia was introduced to the Dean’s Future Scholars program at the University of Nevada, Reno. The academic outreach program focused on increasing the number of low-income, first-generation high school graduates and college enrollees. It transformed Segura-Garcia’s life as he earned a bachelor’s in psychology at UNR and became employed by the same program that inspired him as a youngster. Ultimately, that program led him to pursue a master’s in education.
After working for three years as a student mentor for high school and middle school students, Segura-Garcia became the coordinator for the WNC program.
“I was once in their shoes. I understand what they are going through,” he said. “Giving back to them and serving as a positive role model was the most fulfilling part of my job.”
Now, Segura-Garcia can benefit students at WNC. Entering its second-year, the Jump Start program allows high school juniors and seniors at participating Northern Nevada schools to earn up to an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school.
“Alex brings a wealth of personal and professional experiences related to helping high school students make the successful transition to college,” said John Kinkella, WNC’s dean of Student Services. “We are pleased to be able to provide this additional support to our Jump Start College students.”
As WNC’s successful Jump Start program moves into its second year, Segura-Garcia seeks to offer students more flexibility in course offerings. He also plans to reach out to more students in Northern Nevada to make them aware of and plan for the Jump Start College.
“I hope to start reaching out to middle school students, specifically eighth-graders, and tell them who we are, what we do and why it is a great idea to join Jump Start,” Segura-Garcia said. “It’s perfect timing because then they are going into high school with the mind-set of what they have to do to get into Jump Start College. Participating in Jump Start College allows them to graduate from high school with a diploma and an associate degree.”
Word has spread about the success and benefits of the Jump Start College. After a better than 97 percent course completion rate in the pilot year, enrollment is expected to increase from 200 to nearly 300 students for the 2015-16 school year.
“As a result of this success, nine high schools are now enrolling juniors and seniors in 15 credits per semester,” Kinkella said. “This will allow students in Nevada to join students from a host of other states who permit high school students to attain their associate degree simultaneously with high school graduation.”
WNC has also created new Jump Start tracks so more students can be included. At Carson High School, students who don’t qualify for the regular Jump Start program can still earn up to six college credits per year and take remedial math and English classes.
Teacher assistants are critical to the success of the program, said Segura-Garcia. They attend the classes along with the students and serve as a tutor and mentor to the students. They also provide supplemental education to the students once a week and are the main contact person for parents and instructors.
WNC also will have a part-time Jump Start specialist for the program who will reach out to home-school families in the area.
“She will be the main point of contact for all home-school families, current and prospective,” Segura-Garcia said. “She will also serve as the teaching assistant for the second-year students at Dayton, Virginia City and Fernley high schools.”
Away from the office, Segura-Garcia enjoys lifting weights and cardio workouts. On a weekend, you might find him spending time with his family at Donner Lake in Truckee or taking his favorite hike in the Sierra.
“I spend as much time as I possibly can with my family,” he said.