PERSIST – Personal Initiative and Social Transformation

PERSIST is a program at Berkeley City College that acts as a gateway toward achievable workforce preparedness and knowledge-based careers.  Students in PERSIST identify and focus on an issue vital to their living and learning environment, working in teams on a semester-long project, gaining academic skills as well as insight on the problems facing their communities. This learning cohort approach acknowledges, even draws on, the students’ personal and academic experiences that often hinders their ability to succeed. Different learning styles are identified as strengths, and PERSIST students use them to develop communication and leadership skills while acquiring math, writing and critical thinking skills crucial to a certificate program or degree.

A Brief History

PERSIST began with the efforts of concerned instructors to create a learning cohort for Basic Skills students. The initial effort, called Foundations, began in Spring 2008, with instructors from Math, English and Counseling meeting once a week to discuss the progress of the cohort, individual students’ performance and issues outside the classroom that had possible effects on these learners. Early on, discussions often focused on our own awareness of teaching styles. Midway through that semester, we heard a Staff Development Day presentation by Diego Navarro, laying out the learning cohort approach of Cabrillo College’s Academy for College Excellence (ACE – formerly Digital Bridge Academy). The three instructors of Foundations, along with English chair Jenny Lowood, signed up for DBA’s weeklong Faculty Experiential Leadership Institute in June 2008. BCC’s own Nola Hadley Torres and Katie Koelle had preceded us in this transformative instructor’s experience.

Berkeley City College Trains Its Own

Every PERSIST faculty member is ideally trained in the ACE curriculum. Beginning in 2010, BCC has hosted its own ACE-approved Five-Day Experiential Learning Institute (FELI) each Summer, held during the first or second week of June.  ACE Master Mentors/PERSIST faculty Shannon Penn and Chris Lebo-Planas have co-facilitated each of the five FELIs held on site.  As a result, more than 50 BCC faculty, administrators and support staff have been trained in this transformative educational model. Many more colleagues from other campuses and partnered community organizations have as well.