Sometimes, happenstance or serendipity, or whatever you want to call it, just happens.
Karen Gross generously did several readings with the UHill students and met with aspiring writers during the lunch break. We had a brief opportunity to talk but enough time for her to decide that I needed to read her new book, Breakaway Learners: Strategies for Post Secondary Success with At-Risk Students.
Karen Gross is not your typical College president. She has a well developed understanding of the “curdled childhood” of students who have survived toxic stress and trauma, such as poverty and abuse, in their young lives, partially due to her own experiences as a child. She has concrete ideas and suggestions to ensure better outcomes for vulnerable students, including admission into higher education and subsequent completion. She has even coined a new word, “lasticity” as a way to articulate the five building blocks required in order foster student success and hold institutions responsible for being responsive to all students:
1. elasticity refers to the self preservation required for students experiences significant traumatic events or enduring trauma and continue to cope and move forward in their lives
2. plasticity references the permanent change that occurs in the institution itself in response to required changes
3. pivoting right references supporting students in their ability to make short and long term decisions that will bring abut the most favourable outcome
4. reciprocity that extends beyond student willingness to share ideas and commit to agreements with staff listening and responding, to institutions being responsive to the ideas and needs of their changing populations
5. belief in self by teachers and institutions stepping away from a deficit model of education to one that builds on strengths
The books has a conversational tone, unabashed opinions and a distinctly American frame of reference. It is a must read for those considering short and long term goals for staff and institutions to re-invest themselves to nurture the success of vulnerable students through their many stages of the “education pipeline”.