Some teens start high school already planning their college application résumés. Others get inspired during junior year. But students whose parents never went to college, especially those who move as the seasons change, often see high school graduation as their final educational step.
A new Stan State program aims to open those eyes to a wider future. The Yo Puedo College & Career Readiness Boot Camp invited its first group of middle school students to campus in July. The day-camp was a partnership of the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) and Stan State’s Innovate, Design, Excel & Assess for Success (IDEAS) program.
“We are working to help these students feel empowered about going to college and learn about all of the opportunities that exist if they go to college,” said project lead Carolina Alfaro, Stan State assistant director of Admissions and Outreach Services.
SJCOE Director of Migrant Education Manuel Nuñez said the program helped kids understand the steps to build a different life for themselves. “A lot of our students don’t know — and a lot of their parents don’t know — what the process is to get into college. ‘What is college? Can I pay for college?’ They don’t know where to go to get answers,” Nuñez said.
Day 1 kicked off with information about college systems, vocabulary and routes to different careers, with 40 sixth-through-ninth graders from San Joaquin County’s Migrant Education Program getting an overview of college their families likely never had.
First and foremost, they learned that making it to college comes down more to perseverance than money. They heard terms repurposed in higher education, like “minor,” “concentration” and “impaction.” Unlike at trade schools, university majors can lead to many careers. Aspiring attorneys will not find Lawyering 101 on the undergraduate course list, but political science, criminal justice and any number of science or business specialties all apply.
Camp-goers went over the differences between public and private, community colleges and four-year universities. Speakers compared the state’s four-year college systems: the California State University serves the wider community with many campuses and the University of California, designed as research institutions.
“We make them mini-experts about the college systems,” Alfaro said.
Day 2 included a campuswide scavenger hunt to let teens experience life as a first-year college student. Using “Yo Puedo College Bucks,” students managed their budgets by paying for tuition, books and housing. The activity wrapped up with information on financial aid, focusing on financial literacy and scholarships.
“This day is really about problem-solving, budgeting and getting them think about how they’re going to manage their life as a college student,” Alfaro said.
Day 3 focused on life after college. Using career assessment tools, students identified skills they possess that would be useful in a variety of professions. Guest speakers also shared their personal college and professional journeys, from choosing a major to the work they do now.
“We want to help these students make the connections between the many majors that are offered in college and the possible careers that are associated with them,” Alfaro said.
After a symbolic graduation ceremony, camp participants headed home equipped with more than a hazy dream. They took home a school supply kit for the new academic year, and knowledge and know-how to create a more promising future.
“Yo Puedo camp is another way to reach out to our youth, to encourage them to aspire to higher education and understand the importance of it,” said Stan State Early Outreach Specialist Rocio Luna, who helped put on the camp. “Through many interactive activities, and the sense of being a college student, it gets that message across at an earlier age rather than waiting until their junior or senior year of high school.”