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Important Title V Grant Gives College-Bound Students Extra Edge in Academics

VESSI logo

Miami, April 5, 2010 - The ¡Viva El Éxito! Student Success Initiative (VESSI), a Title V Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, is successfully ending its five-year run at the College this year.

A lucrative grant awarded to Miami Dade College (MDC) five years ago has opened doors for a diverse mix of students, both traditional high school graduates and non-traditional students, whose educational and job prospects once seemed severely limited.

Issued in 2005, the grant totaled $2.25 million, or $450,000 per year. 

The mission of VESSI has been to facilitate access to a quality education through strategic high school outreach, community partnerships and learner-centered initiatives that promote retention and success among first-year college students.

The VESSI project has enhanced the experiences of students at the Homestead Campus by providing case management services, unique programs for new and continuing students, and a bevy of other resources.  

Success Story

One of the more prominent success stories to emerge from VESSI is that of Carmen Diaz, a former paramedic and mother of three who suffered a near fatal car accident seven years ago. Prior to the accident, Diaz, 42, was a hardworking single mother who never gave up the desire to complete her education.

“I enrolled at MDC’s InterAmerican Campus a few years before my accident, but didn’t continue because I had trouble paying for tuition and books even at Miami Dade’s affordable prices,” said Diaz. 

Shortly after the accident, which left her partially disabled, she returned to MDC’s Homestead Campus to complete the educational mission she started years earlier. “I chose the Homestead Campus because it was smaller in size. With my disability, it makes it difficult to get around sometimes without some assistance,” added Diaz. It was during the registration process at Homestead that Diaz was introduced to the VESSI program and its advisors. 

Students with obstacles similar to Diaz receive ongoing support prior to their enrollment at the college, through the end of their first year and beyond.  Services include placement test (CPT) orientation and preparation, Student Success workshops, mentoring, tutoring and more.  

“I’m just thankful this program was available to me because of the personalized attention I received,” stated Diaz. “The VESSI advisors are not like regular college advisors, they take you step-by-step through the whole process.” 

Outstanding Results

In 2009, VESSI’s high school outreach contributed to 46 percent of graduates from area schools, including Homestead, South Dade, Robert Morgan Educational Center, the Corporate Academy, and other South Miami-Dade schools choosing to enroll at MDC; compared with 35 percent in 2006. The high school outreach culiminates with an intensive summer enrichment program of college-readiness skills and activities.

Upon their completion, the majority of participants in the summer program go on to enroll at the Homestead Campus with many of them avoiding one or more developmental or remedial courses. 

VESSI’s hands-on approach and its positive results go way beyond the student’s first year. In fact, it was two years ago that 96 percent of first-time college students who used VESSI services remained enrolled for the spring semester compared to 81 percent of students at the Homestead Campus overall.

Of those same VESSI students, 83 percent enrolled in their second year of education at MDC in fall 2009, compared to 63 percent of Homestead students overall. 

“With this grant, we sought to improve the success and retention rates among students entering college at the developmental level,” said Linda Saumell, Ph.D., former project director. 

“For many of our VESSI students, Miami Dade College is their only option to pursue post-secondary education. Today we can proudly say that most students participating in this program are on the path toward graduation and - advanced degrees or satisfying careers.”

Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Tarnell Carroll, 305-237-3359,, media specialist
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist
Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482,

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