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League for Innovation Honors Gingras, Spain

WINTERVILLE—The League for Innovation in the Community College has released its 2011 Innovation of the Year Award Winners, and two are from Pitt Community College for their work in incorporating financial aid probation intervention into the college’s Early Alert program.

Earlier this month, the League for Innovation recognized PCC’s Happy Gingras and Jasmin Spain for their spirit of innovation and experimentation. The duo created an intervention workshop to help students in jeopardy of losing their financial aid benefits.

According to Spain, who coordinates Pitt’s VISIONS program, the financial aid workshop helps students understand the rules of financial aid and develop the skills needed to become more successful in college. It does so, he said, by helping them create individualized plans to return to satisfactory academic progress.

Gingras, a sociology instructor who once coordinated the college’s placement testing program, says the workshops focus on topics such as financial aid education, time management, learning/teaching styles, and career exploration. It’s a creative approach that offers timely intervention for at-risk students through a series of online and face-to-face meetings, she said.

Spain noted that the financial aid intervention system also connects students with a coach who will work with them to enhance the quality of their education. He added that the program is cost effective and could be replicated at other institutions.

After piloting the workshop during the Fall 2010 semester, 76 percent of the students who completed the series maintained or increased their grade point averages, Gingras said. She added that 88 percent enrolled in classes at PCC the following semester.