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College-Ready Conference Reaches out to African American Students

Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

For fourth graders and high school seniors alike, now is the time to be thinking about college. That was the message of ‘Dare to Dream College: The African American Experience,’ held Nov. 2 on the UC San Diego campus. More than 900 students, families and community members from across San Diego County participated in the college-readiness conference to learn about the application process, financial aid and other resources for college preparation.

UC San Diego Chancellor Pardeep K. Khosla opened the program by commending the young students for their motivation and interest in higher education. “You are the students we want as our future Tritons,” he said. “You are bright, motivated and talented—and we can offer you a world-class education, right here in San Diego.”

Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla

Hosted by the California Student Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP) and community partners, the college-readiness conference included 16 workshops and a resource fair on Library Walk. UC San Diego representatives from the Office of Admissions, the Financial Aid Office and numerous student organizations offered information, advice and insight about the path to higher education, from the “A-G” requirements and preparing for the SAT, to choosing a major. In addition, current students from the UC San Diego Black Student Union shared their experiences—both challenges and successes—in pursuing a UC education.

“There is a strong community of people on this campus who are here to support you and see you succeed,” said Linda S. Greene, vice chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. “We want to see more students from our diverse San Diego region attending UC San Diego.”

For parents and students concerned with the affordability of a UC education, Khosla assured them early on that financial assistance is available. He pointed out programs such as the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which covers tuition for California students whose family income is less than $80,000 per year, and the recently created Chancellor’s Scholars Program, which provides $10,000 a year for four years at UC San Diego to eligible graduates of three local high schools: The Preuss School UCSD, Gompers Preparatory Academy and Lincoln High School.

“I cannot stress this enough: a UC San Diego education is attainable and affordable,” Khosla said. “You do your part—study hard and get good grades—and we’ll do our part and provide financial assistance.”

Later, students and families had the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about financial aid options at a workshop dedicated to financing a college education. Other popular workshops included “The Achievement Gap—How to Help African American Children Succeed in School,” attended primarily by community members; “Saving Our African American Males,” which focused on strategies for helping more males attain higher education; and “Parent 911: Understanding the Parent Role in Education,” which stressed the importance of parent involvement in the college-readiness process. The San Diego Black Storytellers also participated in the event, using the oral tradition embedded in the African American heritage to share an educational journey of sacrifice, hopes and dreams.

According to Linda Doughty, director of Cal-SOAP, the workshops were developed to address common stumbling blocks that students face in navigating the education system. She explained that many of the African American issues addressed at the conference go across ethnic lines, and the interest in the community for this program grows stronger every year. Cal-SOAP plans to expand ‘Dare to Dream’ in 2014.

Cal-SOAP works under the direction of the California Student Aid Commission and is operated in partnership with the University of California, California State University, local nonprofits and public elementary and secondary school districts. Cal-SOAP provides information about postsecondary education and financial aid to elementary through high school students, focusing on students from low-income families and underserved areas. For more information, go here.