Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera Program Partner Spotlight – The College Blueprint

The College Blueprint, one of Generation 1st Degree’s programs aimed at helping kids succeed in college, is busy at work providing professional college planning and test preparation guidance for students throughout the school year. This summer, they enjoyed hosting a College Planning Summer Intensive Program for the Class of 2016.

On a warm Monday morning in July, while other teenagers were sound asleep, 55 students arrived at El Rancho High School eager to explore their paths to college. Most will be the first in their family to attend a four-year university and all were determined to obtain a college degree in order to build a solid foundation for their future.

Sponsored by Generation 1st Degree, and designed by Jan Kerchner and Marla Kelley, this Summer’s Intensive College Blueprint Program for the Class of 2016 was a great success. In six sessions over a two week period students were guided by experienced College Blueprint counselors through Career Exploration, College and Major Research and Scholarship Research. The students even participated in a mock admission committee in which they determined whether applicants were offered or denied admission to their fictitious college, based on application data and personal statements. By the end of the program each student had the opportunity to formulate a personalized college list, and complete a resume.

“One of the most challenging components of the program is for each student to brainstorm, draft and finalize a personal statement essay for their college applications,” said Marla Kelley. She taught a workshop to provide an overview approach to the essay writing process, then brought in Essay Coaches Jordan Kelley, Jason Lee and Andre Na to work one-on-one with each student to accomplish that challenge. “It is a privilege and a great opportunity for me to help these students tell their stories in a way that demonstrates to college admission officers where they come from and who they are,” said Jordan Kelley, who also served as an essay coach in last summer’s college planning program.

“The student feedback was very positive,” commented Jan Kerchner, founder and Director of The College Blueprint. “There was a great appreciation for the counselors’ knowledge, and the opportunities for individual consultation and editing with the essay coaches.”

On the last day of the program the students were treated to some surprises. The Essay Coaches shared some of their favorite essays, anonymously. Reading them aloud, each coach ended to appreciative applause from the students in respect for the stories written by their peers. As the scent of Papa John’s pizza filled the library, Jacki Cisneros, founder of the Generation 1st Degree Foundation, appeared with prizes for the final day raffle.

Students were given raffle tickets for attendance and for participating in spirit wear opportunities. Lucky students won gift cards to In-N-Out and Starbucks and one student won the grand prize, a Chromebook donated by Assistant District Superintendent Dr. Roxane Fuentes.

Finally, the students enjoyed their lunch, goodbyes and hugs were given, and 55 rising seniors at El Rancho High School left the program with an essay, a college plan and high hopes for their future.

Collegiate Corner: El Rancho High School Alumnus Jeffrey Valenzuela

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Being the first in my family to attend a four-year university, a tremendous amount of pressure has been put on me to succeed. I come from a single-parent household in which my mother works various long hours to provide for her four boys. After high school, my two older brothers, Marvin and Alex, had to put a hold on their college education in order to help my mother financially. Thanks to my mother and two older brothers, my family and I were able to live a pretty stable life. However, there was never really enough money to take a family vacation or buy and enjoy luxurious items. As a family, we understood our financial situation. We knew it was more important to pay for things that were a necessity, such as groceries, school supplies and bills.

At some point, during my studies at El Rancho High School, I felt that I would also have to put a hold on my college education to help my family. When I spoke of this idea to my mother, she told me, “focus on getting into a great college and being a good role model for your little brother, Randy, instead of worrying about the bills.” As much as I wanted to help my mom by getting a job, I knew what she told me would be better in the long run. Getting a degree from a great college could lead to a well-paying career in the future and this in turn would help me to have a stable financial life. I’d plan to have enough to help repay my mother for all the sacrifices she has made for me. It also helped that I stayed home, with my mom and my brothers working constantly, Randy and I were left alone usually every day of the week. It became my responsibility to raise and babysit him and to ensure he did all his homework.

While being an adult figure for my little brother, I also tried to keep my promise to my mother to do well in school by getting straight A’s whenever possible. I balanced my schoolwork while participating in two sports, soccer and track. I must admit that it was very challenging to balance all of these activities throughout high school but I’m so glad I was able to do it.

Every time I was at a soccer game, a track meet, or an award ceremony, it was very heartbreaking being one of the few kids whose parents or family could not show up because they were too busy with work. It often made my mother very sad to not witness me accepting an academic award or sport medal at a social event. I often hid these occasions from her in order to prevent her from feeling depressed about missing some of her son’s best moments in high school.

Although I got good grades throughout high school, I always felt that if I didn’t get into a prestigious university, that all my hard work would have gone to waste. Therefore, at the beginning of my senior year, I searched for as much information about applying to college as I could. I couldn’t look to my older brothers for help since they didn’t go to four-year colleges. Luckily, El Rancho High School heavily promoted the Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera program. This organization was heavily devoted to helping students get into college. They held various workshops that discussed the college application process and how to apply for financial aid, along with offering various scholarships for students to take advantage of.

Without the help of Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera, I would have never felt comfortable applying to big name schools without worrying about being rejected or not being able to afford tuition. This organization has played a significant role in my decision to apply to UCLA, where I am currently a Sophomore and studying biology. My hopes are to become a doctor in the near future.

How To Become An Engaged Parent

As a mother of two young boys, I know what it’s like to be filled with hope that my children will reach their best potential in life and in school.

As many of the children in our neighborhoods head back to school this month, I’m excited to think of the wealth of possibilities that lay ahead for them in higher education.

As parents, it can be overwhelming to navigate the best way to guide our kids and help them succeed in school. Being engaged parents is crucial for their academic success. Research shows that being actively involved with our children helps them get better grades, encourages them to sign up for more challenging coursework and supports positive social skills.

We shouldn’t be intimidated by this process. There are simple steps we can take to become engaged parents.

The first step in engaging with our children is by talking to them about school and asking them what they are learning. By establishing clear communication and having open conversations about their studies and interests, we can set goals and expectations together. Ask them questions, such as: What subjects they are taking and which do they enjoy most? What colleges would they like to attend? These conversations will encourage them to start thinking about their path to college and they’ll feel supported in reaching their academic goals.

In order to help identify and address any barriers to their academic success early on, it’s essential to check your student’s homework on a weekly basis. If they need help, or are possibly struggling in a subject, you may help guide them yourself or consider finding them a tutor. There are many free resources available on school campuses and school staff can also refer you to resources that are available in your local community.

Another key factor in your child’s academic success is meeting their teachers and attending parent-teacher conferences. Reach out to their instructors and get to know what courses your son or daughter is taking. Talk about their progress and ask what they are excelling in. Don’t hesitate to initiate contact with school counselors and administrators. They can guide your student and make sure they are taking the right courses and are on track to get into a college of their choice. They are here to partner with you and they want to see your child succeed.

While it may seem that kids don’t mind if their parents are not involved, I can assure you they care when you show up as their support. Become actively involved by volunteering at their school and attending school events. You can do this in whatever capacity is feasible for you. Whether it be helping for an hour at an after-school event, helping with a fundraiser, or simply showing up at a school game that your child is participating in. It does make a difference.

Another way to get involved is by joining either the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA). This is a good way to help implement school improvement programs and find resources for your school to thrive. Research shows that when parents advocate for their children at school, students are more confident and take on and achieve more. Being involved will show your child that you care about them and their academic environment.

Also, make it a point to get to know your child’s friends and monitor how they spend their time once the school day is over. Help to make your child’s school experience enjoyable by encouraging them to participate in extra-curricular activities, such as sports, music, theater or after-school clubs. This not only allows them to make connections that will enrich their social skills, but it also bolsters their resume when they are applying to colleges. Schools want to receive applications from students that are well-rounded and have participated in high school activities.

Finally, remember that you are not alone. Lean on each other for support. An integral part of our children’s well-being is knowing that we can count on and partner with other people in our community, including fellow parents, teachers, coaches, and counselors.

To learn more about how to become engaged parents, please click on the articles below.