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By Stephen Ruiz

Jump Start Logo As Beacon College prepares to launch Jump Start, its new program of online courses for neurodiverse students beginning college at home, Alexander Morris-Wood is not unlike an expectant parent.

As the director of transition services and outreach at Beacon, Morris-Wood oversees Jump Start. It’s his baby.

“I feel oddly excited and optimistic and confident that the team at Beacon is ready to get going,’’ Morris-Wood said.

Jump Start, which will begin on Oct. 12, originated after the COVID-19 pandemic, Morris-Wood said. Concerned that new students would not attend classes in person or delay entering college, he sought a solution.

“Most online programs are not conducive to helping students who learn differently,’’ Morris-Wood said.

Jump Start will change that, he said.

Three classes are offered: Learning Essentials & Self-Discovery, Math (with options for general education math, math strategies, intermediate algebra, and college algebra) and Technology in Global Environments. Each three-credit course includes 90-minute sessions Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and Jump Start will run through Jan. 11. Holiday breaks are included.

One-on-one weekly academic coaching sessions will be provided, along with group coaching, the availability of professors during office hours and access to the college’s Writing Center. 

Another key component is Navigator PREP, where a counselor works with students and parents to ease the transition to on-campus instruction at Beacon or another college.

“These are not pre-recorded lectures,’’ Morris-Wood said. “This is fully live, professors and students learning just like you have in the classroom.’’

Rose DeJarnett, an instructor in the humanities department, will teach Learning Essentials & Self-Discovery during Jump Start. She participated in Beacon’s Summer for Success program for rising high school juniors and seniors, which was held virtually this year.

“It’s always my goal to make the virtual classroom as parallel to my classroom in person, [so] I still do visual, auditory, kinesthetic and technology [components],’’ DeJarnett said. “I incorporate all of those pieces into my virtual lesson so it’s not just they’re seeing me, they’re doing a worksheet and our class is over.’’

Twelve students have signed up for Jump Start, but Morris-Wood expects that number to grow to 15. Registration will continue until classes begin at https://www.beaconcollege.edu/admissions/jump-start-virtual-semester/.

The cost is $6,360 for one course, $10,620 for two and $14,880 for all three. At least six credits must be taken to be eligible for federal aid. Beacon offers need-based scholarships, with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form required, and families could apply for medical tax benefits.

“Even if you take out COVID, students who learn differently sometimes are not ready for the significant jump into a fully matriculated college, four to five classes,’’ Morris-Wood said. “Allowing students to take one to three classes before they start, [it] allows them to safely enter college, assess how they’re doing and, for us, really figure out the students’ strengths and weaknesses before they enter, so we are already familiar with how the students respond to college-level stressors. 

“I would imagine this would be a program that we offer, moving forward.’’