http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/opinion/ct-ptb-ivy-tech-column-st-0727-story.html For Joy Spence, the Ivy Honors program at Ivy Tech Community College was a chance to learn what NOT to do in college. “I was able to adapt to the study habits and rigor of classes on a college level that will be useful during my educational career,” Spence, a graduate of Lighthouse College Preparatory Academy in Gary, said. “This program has strengthened me mentally and forced me to strengthen my communication skills. “I’ll never forget sitting up one night and getting three hours of sleep writing a 25-page final paper for my cultural anthropology class. For the first time, I experienced what college life would be like if I continued to procrastinate.” Luckily for Spence, because she attended Ivy Tech locally, she was able to rely on family support to get through the adjustment to college. Ivy Honors, formerly American Honors, is a selective program housed at five campuses throughout the state, including Lake County and Valparaiso. Students who apply to the program should have a grade-point average of 3.0, but non-academic achievements, such as character and experience, also are considered. Ivy Honors is aimed at highly motivated students whose goal is to transfer to a four-year college or university after receiving their associate degree. Once in the program, students are required to maintain a 3.25 GPA. Besides rigorous coursework, benefits of the program include one-on-one advising, small class sizes, virtual classroom instruction, leadership and professional development opportunities and special recognition at Ivy Tech’s commencement ceremony. “The program is beneficial because it pushes them to go above the status quo,” Danielle Hart, Ivy Honors advisor, said. “Year after year, we continue to see students shift their goals and start aiming higher than what they may have initially envisioned for themselves. I believe this is a result of being surrounded by other high-achieving students, dedicated honors faculty and the hands-on support they receive from the honors advisors. “Being in this elevated program seems to serve as a confidence boost. They are taking honors courses and once they realize that they are capable of doing well in those courses, they begin to explore what else is possible when they push themselves.” Most Honors grads are admitted to the four-year school of their choice, some of which are Ivy League schools. Many continue on to graduate studies. “I believe that the only way to excel and really expand your breadth of knowledge is to challenge yourself, and that’s exactly what this program aimed to do for its participants,” Ricardo Elias Hernandez, a Lighthouse valedictorian from Merrillville, said. “I learned time management, responsibility, self-advocacy, determination and perseverance. I’ve matured in the way I think, act and portray myself.” Hernandez, who plans to attend Rose-Human Institute of Technology, received about $55,000 in scholarships for the upcoming school year. Spence was awarded several scholarships, including a full scholarship to Indiana University-Bloomington, where she will major in political science with a minor in business. “The honors program benefited me by allowing me to pursue my dreams of becoming an attorney faster and challenged my critical thinking skills,” Spence said. “Most kids experience challenges in college and it is often those times that mentally break them. The Honors program allowed me to experience this now. The rigor of high school is no comparison to that of college. Donna Kiesling is a marketing assistant for Ivy Tech Community College.