2018 First in Family College Readiness Program
Costa Mesa, CA — June 7, 2018 — The SOS First in Family College Readiness Program celebrated the achievements of 32 low-income first-generation high school seniors with a special event held at the SOS Community Health Center on Thursday, June 7 2018. The program prepares students for success in college by supplying them with laptop computers, dorm room essentials, money for textbooks, and more. SOS also helped participants select new professional attire outfits for a school presentation that they can use for job interviews and other formal occasions in the future. By working with their college guidance counselors, SOS is also ensuring that they will have the support they need once in college.
Participants in this year’s project were high school seniors from Newport Harbor High School, Costa Mesa High School, and Estancia High School. Each student was recommended to SOS by an advocate at their school because of their determination to overcome difficult circumstances to succeed. They also submitted an application and wrote a personal statement describing why they should be considered for this project, as well as confirmed their attendance at a college or university in the fall.
All the participants will either be the first in their family to attend college, or part of the first generation in their family to do so. Some of the schools they will be attending are the University of California, Los Angeles; Chapman University; Culinary Institute of America College; California State University, Fullerton; San Francisco State University; Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; and Orange Coast College. Here are a few of their stories (we have changed their names to protect their identities):
Before her junior year of high school, Alice’s mother had a seizure and was admitted into the hospital. Doctors discovered she had a brain tumor. Despite successful surgery, Alice’s mom does not function like before and was transferred to a rehab center, leaving Alice to take care of things at home. Being the oldest of four, her mornings now consist of getting herself and her siblings ready for school. She visits her mom after school and spends late nights studying and finishing her school work. There are times Alice wants to give up, but then she thinks about her mom and how she always keeps herself together, no matter how overwhelming her situation may be, and Alice is able to keep going.
Alice sees this event as the motivation to keep going in school. During senior year, she became an EMT because she wanted to be prepared for the next time something happened to her mom or someone else around her. She wants to go into medicine and is eager to take biochemistry and molecular biology classes. She wants to become a neurologist and help people like her mom. She wants to do scientific research and discover more cures and less invasive treatments.
Alice has received acceptance letters to both Chapman University and Vanguard University, and in the fall she will become the first person in her family to attend college.
June has been raised by a single mother. When growing up, her mother always told her that “education is all that I can give you.” Her mother has been her inspiration to succeed in school. June has worked very hard and is eager to pursue a college degree. Not only has school been important to her, but her religious training, specifically for her confirmation, has exposed her to learning about children and families less fortunate.
This experience has influenced her to obtain a degree in Psychology. Her hope is to work with children and empower them to pursue a fulfilling life and give them hope for a better future, just as her mother did for her. June’s Spanish teacher admires her “genuine spirit of ambition” and is “confident that she will be extremely successful in all her future endeavors. She is a focused and determined young woman.” June will be attending the University of California, Merced in the fall.
Jason’s fondest memory growing up was to come home from school to see his Mom in the kitchen devotedly cooking a hot meal. Jason recalls she would “pour her entire being; blood, sweat, tears, love, and caring, into every single dish.” He looked forward to this family meal every single day.
This all changed when his parents divorced and now their family of three, without their father, was left with nothing. There was no money for the basic necessities and very little to buy groceries. As soon as Jason turned 16 he applied for a job as a tutor. He stayed at school from 6:40 am to 6:00 pm, went to class, tutored, did homework and participated in extracurricular activities. With his earnings he was able to help his Mom with groceries and bills. This meant she was able to quit one of her part-time jobs, allowing them to cook and share a meal together.
Sharing these special moments once again sparked something in Jason. The thought and care that went into preparing a meal resonated through his entire being and he now knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. Jason has been accepted to the Culinary Institute of America where he will pursue a degree in Culinary Arts. He hopes to someday become an Executive Chef and evoke in others the feelings he has whenever he eats his Mom’s cooking.
The students and their invited guests gathered at SOS in Costa Mesa on Thursday afternoon to celebrate their acceptance into the SOS First in Family College Readiness Program and accept their college supplies. Each student received a laptop computer and a $100 gift card for Amazon for textbooks. Student attending a community college got a backpack filled with school supplies, while those who will be living on campus got luggage with dorm supplies including hangers, towels, sheets and a hygiene kit. As a special surprise, SOS procured a sweatshirt for each student from their college or university. Many of the schools donated these items for the students.
Speakers at the event on Friday included community facilitator Maria Barragan from Estancia High School, who spoke about the school’s senior project and the history of the collaboration with SOS; SOS Social Programs Coordinator Alina Pineda; a student panel featuring past program participants; and the keynote speaker, Dr. Ana Aguayo-Bryant, Assistant Director of Student Programs at Cal State University, Long Beach. The event included dinner and cake for the participants and their families.
This project would not have been possible without the generous support of our community. Their kind donations of funds, college supplies and hygiene items allowed SOS to provide each student with a wonderful care package that will make the transition to college as effortless as possible.