On Saturday, March 9, the Southern San Joaquin Valley Cal-SOAP (Student Opportunity Access Program) presented “College: Making it Happen! Educational Forum” at the Icardo Center.
The annual event is a program designed to communicate to families, community leaders, and school educators the importance of early academic and financial planning. The program aspires to educate middle and high school students and their parents about the choices available after high school graduation
“The goal is to inspire students to pursue college education, so that they also know how to pay for their college,” said Project Director Imelda Simos-Valdez.
This was a free event and 2,500 participants including students in grades 6 to 12, parents, community members, and education leaders registered to attend. In addition, there were 60 resource fair vendors, 200 event volunteers and 55 classroom sessions.
After registration, students and their parents were separated into groups and introduced to an assigned CSUB tour guide for the day.
“There would be student sessions broken down for middle school students, also separately for high school students and a parent presentation in both English and Spanish,” said Simos-Valdez.
Each session included information about the ABC’s of A-G courses and high school graduation requirements, which gave students an overview of the California high school graduation requirements. It also provided an in-depth look at the A-G requirements, more specifically, the courses students need to take in high school to be eligible for admission to an institution of higher learning.
Also, students received information about financial aid and scholarship Opportunities and the different types of financial aid available along with eligibility requirements and application process. Students also learned that money should not be an obstacle to their aspiration of higher education and that funds are available in many types to help pay for their education.
Moreover, students received information about careers where professionals from different sectors talked to students about how they achieved their goals and how they overcame the challenges along the way.
In addition, students had the opportunity to visit with numerous college and university representatives, as well as local business and organization representatives. “It was fun and the information given was useful. I learned what kind of credits I need to have to come to college,” said Walter Stiern, 8th grade student Stephanie Hernandez.
High school students also received information about college preparation, in which students learned about ways to prepare for college early in order to make the transition from high school to college easier and also they learned about simple programs and strategies that will set them on an early path to college.
The parent sessions were offered in both English and Spanish with the same type of information that students received but also included Parent-to-Parent Panel. In a panel about systems of higher education parents learned about different colleges in California, California Community Colleges, CSUs, UCs, and independent and private colleges. They also received information about GPA requirements and SAT and ACT exams and the application process. Parents also had the opportunity to hear directly from parents who currently have a child in college or a recent graduate.
“I liked everything, but what I liked most was when they said that parents have to plant that seed to encourage them to move on,” said Marta Alvarado, mother of one of the students who attended the event.
At the closing ceremony, students and their parents were escorted back to the Icardo Center where they enjoyed lunch and entertainment provided by DJ Drewskii along with the Cecil Avenue Math and Science Academy Patriot Cheerleaders a singing performance by Izamar Olaguez and Norma Gaspar.