Club members get taste of college
Club members at CSUN
Last week, after an eight-hour drive, 19 Sonoma teens piled out of two white Boys & Girls Club (BGCSV) vans in front of the admissions office of UCLA for a guided tour – and the first step toward a truly "educated" decision about their future. It is an unfortunate fact of life that most Sonoma students heading off to four-year colleges are unable to tour all the universities on their list before applying. It makes a confusing and anxiety-ridden process even more so. Their college will be their home for the next four years and it represents an investment that could exceed $200,000.
Said BGCSV Teen Director Robin Eurgubian, who organized this first Spring Break College Tour, “This trip proved to us that if you expose students to a range of possibilities, their energy changes. They start believing that they can achieve, or do better, or create a goal for themselves. We had a handful of students who started the trip wishy-washy about college. I can say with confidence, they returned home determined to try go to college.”
While these might not end up being the actual colleges of choice for these teens, this tour provided them with the chance to visit each of the primary categories of four-year colleges that Sonoma students typically consider: large UC school, medium-sized CSU, small private college and small religious college.
“Peterson's College Guide” recommends, "You don't need to tour every school, but you should see enough campuses to know that you are generally on the right track with your list and not making false assumptions or missing interesting possibilities."
While it is not common practice here, experts suggest that families build tours into any family vacations from the middle school years onward if attending college is an academic goal.
Thanks to an Impact 100 grant and the recent hiring of Eurgubian, BGCSV has been instrumental in jump-starting college conversations among its teens, most of whom would be the first in their family to attend college. Last summer, Eurgubian brought dozens of teens to six different colleges as part of a new program that paired fun destinations like the Oakland Zoo, with tours of nearby colleges like Berkeley and Sacramento State.
The L.A. tour was open to every BCGSV member in high school who is active in the club's College Bound Program. It was offered free of charge, and included transportation, lodging and meals. This year's participants were: 12th graders Jeanette Acevedo, Jeremiah Zelaya, Isabel Garcia and Tony La; 11th graders Kamryn Barker, Diana Baron, Gemma Bolanos, Anelyn Burquez, Dalia Caballero, Ely Hernandez, Yara Morales, Kayla Wilson and Isreal Rivas; 10th grader Angel Rosas; and 9th graders Francisco Chavez, Jessica Hernandez, Daniel Hernandez, Itzel Santiago Macedonio and Rafael Maldonado, all students at Sonoma Valley High School.
The group had a jam-packed itinerary, with the goal of seeing as much of L.A. as possible between tours, and they gathered for a sit-down, family-type meal every night to compare notes. While the first day was spent traveling and checking into the UCLA Tiverton House, on the second day they toured UCLA and nearby Whittier College, and explored Santa Monica. The students loved the energy of UCLA and weren’t scared off by the size of the school, reacting favorably to its 40,000 students and large campus at the base of the Santa Monica mountains.
Whittier College, located 30 miles east of UCLA, provided a dramatically different tableau with only 1,660 students. The school's team mascot is the "Poets" providing a telling sign of the schools emphasis on academics. The small size, however, was less appealing to this group but a good counter-balance.
Almost half the group had never been to L.A. or had only seen the Disney area. On the third day, the group visited Hollywood and Beverly Hills before touring Pepperdine University in Malibu. While the most expensive college on their tour, Pepperdine is known for very generous financial aid, making it comparable to UC tuition. Overlooking the ocean, Pepperdine's 7,700 students enjoy what is widely considered to be the most beautiful college campus on the West Coast. Said Diana Baron, “I am definitely applying to UCLA and Pepperdine. They have amazing campuses and the majors I want.”
On the final day, the group squeezed in a tour of CSU Northridge and its 32,000 students in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. Isabel Garcia applied to Whittier and Northridge and had planned to attend Whittier if accepted. She commented, “This trip gave me the opportunity to compare the schools. Now that I have been able to visit CSUN, I know it is the right campus for me. It feels like home.” Added Kamryn Barker,” I had no idea about this campus but I am definitely applying next year.”
Whether or not these students apply to these colleges, they now have a better sense of how a large campus feels compared to a small one. They know first-hand what impact a school's architecture, its class sizes or its setting might have on their impression of it. Any insight gained will enable them to make more education decisions as they build their college lists. And for those ninth and tenth grade students, for whom the bulk of their high school career still looms ahead, they have seen the carrot at the end of the stick. If they are college-bound, this trip may have provided them with exactly the inspiration they need to do the hard work that will be required to fulfill their dreams.