Academic Transition Program builds success

Published: August 26, 2014

Just before entering high school, a personal family struggle took Helen Alarcon off her path of academic success. As her impressive grades slipped drastically, so did Helen’s dream of college. However, her parents were determined to see their only child become the first in their family to attend college. Helen began to dream again and worked hard to improve her grades in 11th and 12th grade. Despite the urgings of high school counselors to attend a community college, Helen was set on a University of Washington education. She visited the UW Bothell and knew it was the right place for her.

Helen was accepted into UW Bothell’s Academic Transition Program (ATP). This is a year-long academic preparation program designed to provide assistance for historically disadvantaged, low-income, and first generation college students; though all students may be considered to participate. They are selected for the program by showing great promise in overcoming adversity, and demonstrating particularly strong motivation to succeed in college.

As part of ATP, Helen was required to attend certain seminars and courses that would help build her foundation for success at UW Bothell. She met faculty members, was paired with a mentor and learned to navigate the campus. Helen was also required to meet with her academic advisor three times per quarter, provide proof that she was on track to improving her performance, and meet a minimum required GPA. Now, the minimum is not good enough for Helen. She’s made two quarterly dean’s lists, once with a 3.7 GPA.

Helen’s ATP cohort of 10 students is still a support system and she remains in touch with her professors. She will be a junior this fall with a major in community psychology and a minor in education and society.

In the two years that Helen has been at UW Bothell, she has made the transition to leader. She now gives presentations to incoming ATP students, she works in the admissions office and in the School of Business. Always eager to learn and do new things that make a difference, Helen is also interning at the Seattle Municipal Court working with at-risk populations in the probation department. She tutors Spanish and she has mentored Latino girls at a middle school and encouraged them to pursue higher education. When the fall quarter begins, Helen will take on the role as UW Bothell’s chapter president of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Her struggles have inspired Helen to become a lawyer. She also plans to extend her UW Bothell education by a year to get her K-8 teaching certificate and possibly an English Language Learners (ELL) certificate.

She says, “I’m here. I’m going to stay and I’m going to finish. I’m going to make my parents proud and I want to help my community. I am trying to show my community that I am here and it is possible.”

Helen Alarcon