Matt Jelenek graduating just 11 months after high school commencement
KOKOMO, Ind. — Matt Jelenek is a young man with an ambitious plan and he doesn’t want to waste any time on his way to the future. He certainly has a jumpstart on his postsecondary education as a member of the first group of students to go through Ivy Tech Community College’s ASAP program in the Kokomo Region.
Matt graduated from Ivy Tech May 7, proud recipient of an Associate of Arts Degree in Liberal Arts. The kicker? It’s less than a year since he wore a cap and gown for graduation from Maconaquah High School and in August, he will enter Manchester University as a junior. Along with his university admission, he recently learned he has been awarded a President’s Academic Scholarship of $20,000 per year, for up to four years.
ASAP, Ivy Tech’s one-year accelerated associate degree, gets credit for its contribution to Matt’s success from Matt’s parents, Dana and Stan Jelenek.
“I love this program!” Dana said. “The ASAP experience definitely helped turn Matt’s dream of going to Manchester into a reality – both educationally and financially.”
Ivy Tech introduced ASAP to the Kokomo Region last year, offering the opportunity to earn a degree in one year instead of the traditional two-year track through a rigorous curriculum and a full-time schedule. Matt is one of 14 students who made up the first ASAP cohort in Kokomo, coming together last June and going through the accelerated program as a cohesive group.
At Maconaquah, Matt had been a member of the swim team for seven years and played baritone saxophone in the band for five years. A 10-year member of 4-H, he served as a junior leader for the group and saved his profits from selling his 4-H animals to help pay for college.
Matt had been looking at Manchester for several years. Just 35 miles from home in North Manchester, Ind., with an enrollment of only about 1,000 students, and known for its political science program (his area of interest), it’s a perfect fit for the young man from rural Miami County. “I don’t want to go to a large school where I could get lost in a wave of students,” he said. “I visited Manchester before I started at Ivy Tech and knew it was the right place for me.” But the cost of going to a private university was, of course, a consideration.
Why ASAP? “ASAP took less time to complete,” Matt said with a smile. “I’d rather get out of school and be prepared to do a job quicker than most people. And I don’t have to take out a lot of student loans that would mean debt when I get out.”
ASAP’s coursework also fits nicely into Manchester’s transfer program, which has a list of more than 100 Ivy Tech courses that can transfer to the four-year university. All the courses Matt took on his way to his Ivy Tech Liberal Arts degree have been accepted by Manchester.
The ASAP program has offered a great transition from high school to college – and on to Manchester, both Matt and his mother said. Scholarships and book grants from Ivy Tech helped cover the cost of the program. Ivy Tech faculty members proved flexible and supportive. The program’s coordinator, Beth Chaney, herself a graduate of both Maconaquah High School and Ivy Tech, served as advisor, mentor, cheerleader, and confidante for the group. The students became friends who understand and support each other, a tight-knit “family” that became even closer as they dealt with the harsh reality of a classmate’s death in an automobile accident last fall. And the transfer from Ivy Tech to Manchester has been “amazingly smooth.”
“Matt opened up a lot through ASAP,” his mother noted. “He’s really taken advantage of what the program offers through its enrichment activities. It gave him the opportunity to branch out and do more things, like community service.”
Brandi Chauncey is the Manchester University admissions officer who has worked with the Jeleneks. She says Manchester has a long history of working with transfer students from Ivy Tech campuses around the state and the school is especially interested in the College’s ASAP graduates.
“One of the main reasons that Manchester views the ASAP program positively is that it shows determination, commitment, and strong work ethic by the students who participate,” Chauncey said. “I have found that the ASAP advisors/mentors are very committed to helping these students find the college/university that is the best fit once they leave Ivy Tech.”
Referring to the $20,000 annual scholarship Matt has been awarded, Chauncey said, “Manchester really supports the transfer student financially and awards scholarships to offset the costs to continue their educations.
“We hope to increase the number of ASAP students transferring to Manchester,” she continued. “We value transfer students because of the unique perspective and background they bring to our campus.”
With a Dean’s List performance in the ASAP program and qualification for Phi Theta Kappa, the international academic honorary for community college students, Matt is ready for the next step.
What does the future hold for Matt? His mom remembers his goal, since he was 12, is to be president of the United States of America. Asked about it now, he smiles and says, “Maybe.”
“I plan to major in political science at Manchester. I want to become a politician,” Matt said earnestly. “I like history. I like looking at the issues we need to deal with. Maybe, when I grow up, I can help with those issues.”
His ASAP classmates will be among those watching to see where Matt goes in the years to come.