Marco Bailetti always knew he wanted to continue his education after finishing high school. But at the age of 18, he felt he wasn’t ready — he was bored at school and his grades weren’t good.
So instead of going to university, he joined the U.S. Air Force. Bailetti was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and had always felt a patriotic duty to serve his country.
After serving in the military for four years as a jet engine mechanic, he applied to Carleton University’s Enriched Support Program (ESP), which he’d heard about from his father Tony Bailetti, who has taught at Carleton for more than three decades.
Despite his poor academic record in high school, ESP gave Bailetti an opportunity to qualify for a full-time degree program by successfully completing one year of transition courses. The program helped him improve his grades and develop the skills he needed to study at the university level, while providing him with workshops and academic coaching to support him.
However, the transition from military to civilian life can be difficult, especially when that transition is into university. Bailetti says going back to school after being in the military was a challenge because he had to “learn how to learn again.”
His first year in ESP at Carleton “opened up” his passion for learning and helped build his confidence.
“There’s this innate belief in you, which was helpful for me,” Bailetti says. “(The people from ESP) believed in my potential, the student’s potential, and you could feel that.”
After completing the transition program, Bailetti became a full-time student and took additional summer courses so he could graduate faster and join the workforce as soon as possible.
Although he was glad he served in the military, Bailetti says it meant he lost four years that he could have been working.
Nevertheless, Bailetti became Carleton’s first ESP graduate in 2000 when he finished his four-year honours BA in mass communications. He now works as vice-president of data science at Razorfish, a global marketing and advertising firm.
“The Carleton experience was, you know, fantastic, and I think I developed some good skills that I use today,” Bailetti says.
But what he remembers most is how much people believed in him.
“I’m forever grateful, because my life would have been very, very different had I not had that opportunity.”
Bailetti says he would have gone through university without the help of ESP if he had to, although he admits it would have been more “painful.” He didn’t have the skills a student needs to be successful in university and it would have taken him longer to finish his studies.
“I don’t think it would have been as fulfilling as my experience was with ESP, because it really, you know, guided me,” says Bailetti. “ESP definitely is something that gave me that opportunity and kind of accelerated my learning.”
Carleton Now will profile several ESP grads throughout 2016 in honour of the program’s 20th anniversary.