Campus: Fullerton -- May 4, 2006

Teaching Kids About College

Sixth-graders at a dozen elementary schools in Fullerton, Anaheim, Santa Ana and Garden Grove are learning about college - how to prepare for it and what to expect - thanks to a program called Kids to College that will culminate with visits to Cal State Fullerton, beginning this month.

The Sallie Mae Fund is promoting a $1 million campaign designed to raise awareness of higher education and financial aid options to minority communities throughout the state. The campaign is funding a series of education-focused initiatives, including the Kids to College partnership between the California State University system and the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, a nonprofit, policy research organization based at USC.

Kids to College will be funded for three years as a pilot program. Through the partnership, Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Los Angeles, each receiving $25,000 per year, are helping the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute implement the Kids to College curriculum.

Beatriz E. Tapia, CSUF's coordinator of educational partnerships and a lecturer in sociology and Chicana and Chicano studies, has begun facilitating teacher-training workshops for sixth-grade teachers in the Fullerton, Garden Grove Unified, Santa Ana Unified and Anaheim City school districts. Corina A. Espinoza, director of the Kids to College program, is teaching the six-week course.

The elementary school teachers are taking what they learn and presenting lessons to their students before they tour the campus. The classes include lessons on career exploration and research, study skills and college vocabulary. By the time the pupils arrive on campus, they will have been exposed to such terms as "degree," "campus," "dormitory," "university" and "major," for example.

Nearly 1,200 sixth-graders will be visiting Cal State Fullerton May 17, June 2, June 9, June 14 and June 16. While here, Tapia said, the students will tour the campus and participate in an interactive activity facilitated by faculty members, students or staff from the various colleges. They will attend a workshop that will explain admission requirements, and they will be treated to lunch and gift bag filled with CSUF pencils, bookmarks, a T-shirt, financial-aid comic book and other goodies.

The program's primary objectives are to show students and families in low-income and underrepresented communities that higher education is within their reach and to explain how they can begin preparing now for academic life beyond high school.

"I think that this is a great program," Tapia said. "The goal of the three-year pilot program is to serve 1,000 students in the first year, 1,250 in the second year and 1,500 in the third. We have already surpassed our first-year goal, and the interest expressed by the local school districts in this program has been overwhelming. There is a definite interest and need for early outreach programs, and this is something that has been articulated by school administrators and teachers."

Silas H. Abrego, associate vice president for student affairs, said he predicts the Kids to College program "is going to have a great impact."

"We assume that everyone knows about the opportunity a college education provides and that's not true," he said. "This program allows us to start exposing students to college at an early age. The earlier we expose them to higher education, the better."

Contact: Beatriz E. Tapia, Chicana and Chicano Studies, Sociology,
Silas H. Abrego, Student Affairs, (714) 278-2486 or
Mimi Ko Cruz, Public Affairs, (714) 278-7586 or

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