Jacki Cisneros: Maximizing Your Time in High School

Looking back on my days in high school, I could have never foreseen how much everything I did then would have such an impact on me in college and later on in life. High school is the setting where you can begin planning for your future, building a foundation of connections, and using resources that are available to you right on campus.

Planning ahead and managing your time right will play a big part in your success.

Start planning your schedules ahead of time by identifying what your goals and priorities are. Instead of planning at the last minute, begin to prioritize around the most important things to get done. Look at the present week, then the next week and the next month. Get organized and take advantage of any tools, including digital ones, to establish calendars and block out the time you need to accomplish each task. Remember to set realistic expectations and manage your time wisely. Rather than trying to do 10 incredible things at once, choose five things you can work diligently on and that you’ll be able to do extremely well.

Another integral key to success is building your social skills. One of the richest resources you have all around you now are your friends and contacts. Create and foster meaningful relationships in high school. Form a good relationship with student peers in both your classes and as you participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities. Building these social skills in high school will be pivotal when you transfer to college, as you’ll now have the skills to network with peers at all levels. These friends could one day be strong connections in finding jobs and in helping you nurture a successful career.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you find yourself struggling in or outside of the classroom. While many of us prefer to ask advice from our friends and family, and may feel uncomfortable stepping outside our comfort zone, it’s important to realize that others in our community also want to help us and we should take advantage of this kind of help to make progress. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the adults in your life. Even people with busy schedules, and important titles, enjoy helping others. Get to know your teachers, coaches, and other staff on campus.

Finally, take advantage of the programs and resources available to you. Look into tutoring services, or special clubs of interest on campus where you can meet with a mentor and discuss your plans after high school.

If you’d like to find more resources on preparing for college, visit The College and Career Center on campus. Here you can learn more about our programs such as Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera’s “Be A Leader” program, the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP), and The College Blueprint.

Every day on your high school campus counts. With the right plan, the right people behind you and by making use of important resources, you’ll be well on your way to a successful college career and beyond.


A UC Education Within Reach

“Keep this in mind young people, education is the passport to the future. Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare today,” Dr. Thomas Parham, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at UCI, told a gym full of almost 1,000 students at El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera earlier this month.

This was the motivational tone set for one of the largest Achieve UC events held throughout the state this fall. Achieve UC is a system-wide effort in which each of the 10 UC campus chooses a local partnership high school to visit for one day. UCI selected El Rancho High School out of 23 local high schools.

“We already have great programs in place here at El Rancho but today we brought our UC leaders, Chancellors, Vice Chancellors, and Program Support Staff to highlight the value and the attainability of a UC education for students,” said Dr. Stephanie Reyes-Tuccio, Director of the Center for Educational Partnerships at UCI.

In addition to grants and scholarships, all California resident students who qualify for financial aid and whose families make $80K a year or less, can apply for UC’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan. If they qualify, they pay no tuition.

Dr. Parham reminded students that more than half of the El Rancho High School students who applied to UC’s last year, were accepted. “We want you to dream. We get lots of students from El Rancho High School but we want more,” he said.

In addition to hearing from UC senior leaders, students attended practical support workshops on UC applications and personal statements. Others attended a workshop on Transfer Pathways, which streamlines the path for California community college transfer students to UC schools.

Cecilia Leyva, Regional Coordinator for the Early Academic Outreach Program, EAOP at UCI, played a key role in the day’s events. She works with students at El Rancho High School through the support of Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera. EAOP aims to academically prepare students to go to college by offering academic enrichment programs, academic advising, test prep, and parent engagement workshops.

Once an EAOP student herself, Leyva understands the magnitude of this day for her students, many of whom come from low-income backgrounds or are first generation students. “I’m very passionate about the work that we do with our community. It’s important to have mentors that advocate and find resources for our students. Having Achieve UC here today is important because we are exposing the entire campus to these great opportunities. I can’t think of anything better than that,” she said.


An Opportunity Built on Passion

Cesar Ramon Covarrubias

El Rancho High School Alumnus & UCI Freshman

Opportunity comes from having a passion. If you find the passion to pursue something, you’ll find the opportunities to achieve your goals. As for me, I found the passion to be the first in my family to go to a four-year university. This opportunity arose for me because I studied hard, put a lot of effort into getting good grades and was actively involved while at El Rancho High School.

I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I sought help and looked into the resources that were available on campus. I received help from various programs offered at ERHS including the programs that fall under Generation First Degree Pico Rivera, like The College Blueprint, the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) and the Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera “Be A Leader” program.

All of these programs were excellent because they really help you with any of your college-going needs. The College Blueprint program truly helped me get a head start on many things, such as searching for the college I wanted to attend and selecting a major. They also helped guide me with my personal statements when I applied for colleges. On one occasion, I also won a free Chromebook in a raffle hosted by this program. It was an important tool that I used to do my schoolwork.

The Generation 1st Degree Pico-Rivera “Be A Leader” program was excellent because they provided me with feedback on how I could revise my essays for the scholarships and college applications I worked on. Alma Renteria, the mentor of the program was superb in helping the students revise their essays. She really cared about our success. EAOP also helped guide me throughout my years of high school as they assisted looking over my college applications.

With the help of the ERHS staff, Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera and the mentors from all the said programs, I was able to fulfill my goal of attending The University of California, Irvine. My major is Computer Science and Engineering. My hope is to become an engineer. It’s a great honor and privilege to be able to attend UCI because I now have an even greater passion to make my life better. I now have the opportunity to fulfill my goals of earning a college degree and live a truly successful and fulfilled life.

Just as I received help along the way, I plan to give back to my community. In this way, other hard working students with the same passions can have the same and even better opportunities in their future.