College prep workshop presented to students

Gilroy high school students ask questions about college admissions and essay processes during ‘Quetzal Mama,’ a workshop presented by author and consultant Roxanne Ocampo (right) and Erin Gemar, project director of Cal-SOAP, to almost 700 juniors and seni

When the local high school students started coming to Elizabeth Munoz-Rosas with questions about the college application process, the children’s services librarian at Gilroy Library recognized a need in the Gilroy community.
Through her efforts, the library’s Bridge to College program was launched in September and will continue through May 2016. The program provides information on financial aid, college admissions and the college essay, through bilingual presentations like “Quetzal Mama,” a workshop presented to almost 700 juniors and seniors at Gilroy High School on Sept. 29.
Roxanne Ocampo, author, college admissions consultant and public speaker, gave the presentation. An expert on college admissions for Latino students, Ocampo introduces students and parents to the full gamut of higher education options.
Her workshop is designed specifically for students who are first generation college status, low income and historically underrepresented in higher education, although the methods and strategies presented are applicable to anyone interested in college admissions.
“Over the years, even in the last five years, the process has become more and more complicated and more and more competitive,” Ocampo said. “We want to let families know that there are opportunities, and we’re here to help you. We’re here as a resource. Let us know how we can help you.”
Students are never charged a fee to participate in the workshops. Costs are covered by the hosting organization, such as the Gilroy Library.
“I don’t want my students to have debt,” Ocampo said. “At the end of the day, it’s about getting in the school and paying for the school.”
With only 26 percent of graduates enrolling in a four-year college, according to the 2014 Gilroy Unified School District Accountability Report, access to college advising is critical to students like Jamaiah Maritez, 17, and Josephine Sanchez, 17, who attended the workshop.
“Ocampo was very, very clear and her message was very thorough,” Maritez said. “She answered a lot of my questions, especially when I asked her how many students had gotten accepted (to college) by using her program and she said 100 percent. It was very motivating.”
Sanchez felt Ocampo’s message was also very personal.
“I loved her tone, how it was really friendly,” Sanchez said. “It really seemed like she was talking to me personally.”
The Bridge to College program is Gilroy Library’s response to President Obama’s call “to tackle the issues of college preparation and success,” Munoz-Rosas said. When she began developing the program, she reached out for help from college recruitment experts and professionals.
Erin Gemar, project director of South County California Student Opportunity and Access Program, was one of those professionals.
“The organization’s intensive services and their financial resources go to students who meet the criteria (of being) the first in their family to attend college or low income,” Gemar said.
Along with Cal-SOAP, Marisela Gomez, the director of the South Bay region of Collegewise, the largest independent counseling company in the country, became another collaborator.
Earlier this year, Gomez approached Munoz-Rosas about presenting a workshop at the library and the two have worked together ever since.
Gomez and Gemar gave a presentation at a teen volunteer orientation at the library earlier this year, where they introduced students to services offered by both organizations and conveyed the message that college is an option.
“I think that’s why we’re here together, trying to bring the community together to be able to unite the resources and make a stronger impact instead of in our own silos,” Gomez said.
For more information about assistance offered through the library’s Bridge to College program, call Elizabeth Munoz-Rosas at (408) 842-8207.

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