Attending a school like the University of Arizona is a life-altering experience. As new students come to school every fall, they delve into new subjects, develop relationships with new friends, and begin to experience the full range of university life. Sometimes, students find their way naturally into their studies and develop effective strategies for success.
For other students, developing those strategies doesn’t necessarily come naturally, especially for those with learning and attention challenges.
In 1980, with a vision from founder Eleanor Harner, the UA Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques (SALT) Center began with the mission to promoting achievement for exactly these types of learners. It has grown from originally serving three students to more than 500 per semester today. It has seen its work expand from the basement of a university building to a contemporary three-story structure, equipped with tutoring labs and technology, and it has helped thousands of freshmen transform into confident, independent men and women.
In 2012, the SALT Center’s milestones continue to grow. Bruce and Patricia Bartlett, parents of former SALT Center student Ben Bartlett, donated $2 million in support of student scholarships, health and wellness services, and program improvements; prompting the SALT Center to honor their generosity by renaming its facility as the Patricia A. Bartlett Building.
To SALT for Strategy
The SALT Center’s bond with Bruce and Patricia, both former teachers, began as they undertook the college search process for the youngest of their three children, Ben. The minute they learned about the SALT Center, they knew they were on the right track.
“I did a lot of research at different schools and I just found that there is nothing that compared to the SALT program that I felt could meet my son’s needs; where he could go to a large university and succeed,” said Patricia. “We were really excited about the SALT program.”
As a college freshman, Ben faced challenges that many students encounter during their first-year transition.
“I wanted to take in the whole college experience but I was not exactly ready for ‘prime time’ college life. I was too busy with other adventures to fully take advantage of the SALT program and I made all the classic mistakes freshmen and sophomores do to sabotage their success,” said Ben.
“Fortunately my mother, my strategic learning specialist, and Dr. Jeff Orgera (former SALT Center director, currently assistant vice president for student affairs) and the rest of the SALT Center staff refocused my attention to worthwhile goals. As I started to achieve some academic victories, I found a deepened appreciation for the SALT Center staff and a deeper love and appreciation for my mother and the sacrifices she made on my behalf.”
Ben graduated from the UA in 2010 with a degree in Regional Development. Today, he lives in Carlsbad, California and works for a company managing their IT systems across the nation.
“The SALT Center is very important to us for personally helping Ben become the confident young professional he is today, and for helping so many other students reach their goals,” said Patricia. “I think sometimes, especially freshman year, kids just need a little extra support: someone to talk to or some reinforcement in a particular subject. I think the SALT Center can make all the difference in the world for that student.”
A Comprehensive Model for Achievement
The SALT Center’s comprehensive model offers one-on-one meetings between the student and the strategic learning specialist in order to help students with learning strategies specific to their needs. The SALT Center also provides tutoring, workshops, and a computer resource lab updated with the newest assistive technology software.
“A lot of students who have various learning disabilities have grown up feeling like no one understood their problems and for them to reach the same amount of success (as their peers) was usually much harder,” said Bruce. “To see a program that not only let them know that they recognized their difficulties but also provided various coping strategies to overcome their difficulties was really amazing for any parent to witness.”
“If you’re lucky," says Patricia, “sometimes in your life something will come along that becomes a passion for you; something that you need to be a part of, you never thought you would be a part of, but you just cannot let it go and it becomes part of your life.”
It was certainly a large part of Ben’s life while he was here. In a recent conversation squeezed in between business meetings, Ben reflected on his experience at the UA and the SALT Center: “Sometimes being that age you don’t want to call up your parents for everything, so it was a huge help to have that support system – someone who knew where I was coming from. That extra support really got me through some difficult times.”