By Marques Dungey, PPCC Student

Before I could register for any additional classes at Pikes Peak Community College, my academic advisor informed me that it was mandatory for all new and returning students to be enrolled in Advanced Academic Achievement (AAA).

I registered reluctantly, and spent the summer learning and re-learning the soft skills needed to be successful at not only the college level, but necessary to be successful in most career paths.

I along with most of my classmates, assumed the class was going to be a waste of our time and money. However, to our surprise the curriculum was remarkably helpful. The most frustrating part of the course for me and my classmates was our shared belief that the skills being taught should have come to us at a much earlier age.

A class similar to AAA that would focus on money management, time management and effective communications should be implemented into the high school graduation requirements in order to focus on the skills needed to better function as an adult in our society.

As I can remember in grade school, the goal was mastering the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic with just a sprinkle of science and history. Every grade year the curriculum developed toward getting us ready for the following school year, without giving students any life skills to retain outside of the schoolhouse.

This is of no fault of the educators. The job given to them was to insure as many students as possible were able to test out of their current level in order to advance into the next one.

This cycle however has created two major problems:

1. Young adults leaving home for the first time have to deal with the stresses of a college schedule and having to take care of themselves for the first time.

2. The young adults who do not go onto college have fewer skills going forward that will help them to take care of themselves or be functional members of society.

Some may argue that daily living skills like cooking or managing a personnel budget, are ones that should be taught at home. This argument has put students, who do not have anyone at home to teach them these skills at a disadvantage, thus, furthering the divide between the social classes.

Some people may also argue that there is not room in the current curriculum to add another mandatory graduation requirement. According to Cherry Creek School district, Colorado has one of the “more rigorous admission requirements” in order to graduate high school.

.5 Units represents one semester, and it takes a minimum of 22 Units to graduate high school, and only 13 out of those 22 Units are utilized for reading, writing, arithmetic, science, and social studies. Most of the remaining units (5.5) are used for elective courses, which gives students little more than one course each semester as an elective.

So, if a one semester life skills course was implemented into the curriculum it would not deviate from the necessary graduation requirements, and it would add life changing skills needed for a better quality of life for many students.

What I Learned:

Personal management was a serious focal point within the AAA course. Personal management covered everything from physical health, to mental health, to making an events calendar, and taking time to relax. This was the part of the class in which I felt I received the most information helpful for myself, a recently medically separated military veteran, and a returning college student (it’s been 10 years since I was in the classroom).

My first semester was summer of 2017, and the expectations I had for myself were not very high, because I had attempted college before and it did not work out for me. What I learned about personal management was, I over exerted myself working three jobs while in college in order to try and pay it all as I was going along, which then affected my grades because I was not resting myself properly, which then led to me missing class often.

The course also made me aware of many of the resources available to me, which were commonly used by successful college students like tutors and the Learning Commons.

Our instructor went over proper studying, and note taking techniques, and did not mandate that we used any set format, so that the class could decide individually which style made it easiest for them to learn.

The management of personal finances was another common theme throughout AAA. Our instructor stressed the importance of personal finances because how we manage money affects all of us, and especially students. The course talks about the value of developing good credit, how do make a budget, and strategies to cut unnecessary expenses to help save money.

It would have really helped young Marques to know that a credit card with a balance of $1,500 and an interest rate of 21% could take over 20 years to pay off at the minimum rate.

Before I got out of the military at the end of 2016, it was starting to be mandated that new soldiers take finance classes before making any new purchases, but these are skills young adults should have prior to coming into the military.

When 17 year old Marques Dungey got his first credit card in the mail with a limit of about $1,500, he assumed it would be a good learning tool. For most kids around that age, it is very common to have never had dealt with credit before, and it is even more common that credit card companies will flood their mail boxes with “Pre-Approved” credit cards. So, when teen-aged me maxed the credit card out in a few short months (or one summer break), I had to learn the hard way about paying off a credit card.

I used all my extra money from my after-school job to pay off the interest that had grown on the card, and the penalties that had occurred from not making the initial payments the first months I had it. That debt followed me into my first years of college. I was not eligible for many student loans/grants because I already had a negative hit on my credit score, and I didn’t know where to go for help with the situation, because my parents’ experiences with credit cards were not positive either.

Eventually, I had to stop going to college. It took me into my mid-20s to pay off the credit card I only used for a few months.

I also learned about communication and conflict resolution in AAA. It is no surprise that the most commonly known fear among people in our society is public speaking. The reason for this is, people never truly learn to communicate with one another. In the college level, a public speaking class is available, but in the K-12 levels it is not always offered as an elective course. It should be mandatory.

Public speaking is a necessary skill in order to be successful in most career fields, but many adults have lost the ability to communicate with one another, and that lack of ability is being inherited by the future leaders of our nation. It is imperative that this dangerous trend be reversed immediately by giving all of our youth a common ground to learn communication skills and conflict resolution.

Conflict is unavoidable, and it is for reason that conflict resolution should be taught to all students before they graduate high school. Having a developed system of conflict resolution will teach young adults to be better listeners, and to communicate their opinions and expectations to not only their peers, but to their superiors and future subordinates as well.

With the increasing number of single parent homes, and families living from pay check to pay check, the days in which most of our soft skills are learned at home are nearly gone. The American school system still has time to save its youth by mandating children learn these skills. Saving individual consumers will save business and lower cost needed to offer public assistance by the government.

AAA-109 changed the way that I view going to college. At first for me going back to school seemed like a temporary situation as I transitioned out of the military. Now, I am confident that even in my 30s, I can be a “real” college student. It will not be as easy for me now as it would have been had I had these same life skills coming out of high school, but now I have the confidence knowing that many people before me have used these same core skills throughout college and forward as they went on to their desired careers.

Marques is an AS student who plans to major in Nutrition and Health.