College of the Desert recognized as Excelencia Award finalist


Photo courtesy of College of the Desert. plEDGE students taking part of the 2019 EDGE winter session at College of the Desert.

College of the Desert was recognized as a 2021 finalist for the Excelencia in Education Award; they were the only community college in California to be recognized. Every year, four Examples of Excelencia are recognized within the categories of associate, baccalaureate, graduate and community-based organizations–one per category. It is a year-long process consisting of the identification, review and promotion of programs within colleges, universities and community-based organizations. According to Excelencia in Education, this year, Excelencia in Education received 145 program submissions for Examples of Excelencia from 23 states and Puerto Rico. Of these submissions, 21 programs were selected as finalists for Examples of Excelencia. These programs provide intentional, culturally relevant, high-impact practices tailored to Latino students and their communities.

College of the Desert was named a finalist for the EDGE/plEDGE program, which supports local high school graduates from their introduction through completion of college while enrolled at COD. Students must complete the EDGE summer bridge program in order to then receive the two full years of free tuition and fees that the plEDGE program provides.

Katie Chartier–Assistant Director, First-Year Experience–spoke to the Excelencia in Education recognition, it’s meaning and the role of the EDGE/plEDGE program at College of the Desert.

“Being recognized as a finalist for the Excelencia in Education Award is a great honor and means that the hard work put into the EDGE/plEDGE program is making significant impacts on Latino student success and achievement at College of the Desert,” she said. “As a finalist, we can share what has worked for our students and our institution to assist others in advancing their mission of improving Latino student success. Additionally, we are able to learn from others who are also recognized for this distinct honor to continue to improve our practices to support Latino student success.”

Chartier noted how College of the Desert embodies an Example of Excelencia. “College of the Desert has provided support and committed resources to the EDGE/plEDGE program, and many others, to improve student success and achievements,” she said. “The EDGE/plEDGE program has proven to be effective in increasing access, success, persistence and completion for our predominately Hispanic/Latino student population. The EDGE program started in 2012 as a pilot program serving only 22 students. Since then, the program has grown tremendously, with over 9,000 students completing EDGE and over 6,000 students benefiting from plEDGE with tuition and fee support.”

As an Excelencia Award finalist, the EDGE/plEDGE program at College of the Desert stands out at the national level. Chartier spoke to what makes the EDGE/plEDGE program unique and how proud she is to be a part of it. “Along with measurable outcomes of increasing student success and persistence, the EDGE/plEDGE program has also grown very fast in a small amount of time, making it unique,” she said. “Not only has the program grown over the years to serve a majority of incoming COD students, it has also expanded the support services we provide. EDGE/plEDGE now provides students with a structured onboarding experience, a summer bridge component (EDGE) to prepare them for college and college-level coursework, comprehensive wrap-around support services, and financial support (plEDGE) for students’ first two years of college. Another important aspect of the program is providing an opportunity for students to connect with faculty, staff, and other students before they start their academic journey. The EDGE/plEDGE outreach team also provides extensive outreach services in English and Spanish to our local high schools and the community at large to increase access and educational attainment within our service area. The EDGE/plEDGE program is truly a team effort with instructional faculty, counselors, classified staff, and leadership all working together to increase student success, and I am so proud to be a part of it.”

Chartier also notes why the EDGE/plEDGE program is important to the College of the Desert community. “The EDGE/plEDGE program works to remove barriers students face that may prevent them from enrolling, persisting, or succeeding in college,” she said. “By providing students with a smooth transition into college, financial assistance, and a support system to help them complete, students are more likely to complete their educational goals in a timely manner. plEDGE students are also required to enroll full-time, maintain academic standards, complete one career-focused workshop, and complete 10 hours of community service per year.”

She concluded by sharing the ways in which the EDGE/plEDGE program yields student success, particularly in comparison to those who are not enrolled in the program. “We have seen great outcomes for EDGE/pLEDGE students. EDGE/plEDGE students have higher fall to spring persistence rates, higher fall to fall, and higher fall to second spring persistence rates compared to their non-EDGE/plEDGE counterparts,” Chartier said. “EDGE/pLEDGE students complete more units in their first semester compared to their non-EDGE/plEDGE counterparts and also complete more units in their first year compared to their non-EDGE/plEDGE counterparts. Additionally, plEDGE students also have a higher 3-year completion rate compared to their non-plEDGE counterparts.”

On October 28, 2021, from 4:00-5:30 pm ET, Celebración de Excelencia will be holding a virtual event to announce the 2021 Examples of Excelencia at the associate, baccalaureate, graduate and community-based organization levels. Registration is available here.