Workshops give tools to achieve college dreams

Morgan Hill school board member Claudia Rossi, left, meets with Ashley Dunbar, Center Manager, and Karen Braich, Center Lead Coach, about an upcoming prep course offered at the Extreme Learning Center to prepare high school juniors for the CST test.

The conference is called “No Excuses,” named by students who felt, after last year’s installment, they could be the first in their family to go to college.

This Saturday at El Toro Elementary School, 455 East Main Ave., Project Roadmap will offer students and parents know-how and resources to navigate the obstacle-filled road toward college acceptance and enrollment.

Project Roadmap is a group of public educators and community leaders dedicated to helping students trying to be the first in their family to go to college achieve that goal.

“The reason we called it ‘Roadmap’ is because those of us who have gone to college and have followed that path, we know where the roadblocks are, where the detours are. We know what can get you off that path,” said Claudia Rossi, one of the founders of Project Roadmap and a Morgan Hill Unified trustee.

Project Roadmap offers services to students throughout the year, including SAT prep and personal statement writing classes through Extreme Learning Center. But their major project is the “No Excuses” conference.

Four workshops make up the conference; two in the morning and two following lunch. Topics include resume building and retention once enrolled in college. Materials will be available in Spanish as well as English. This type of information, Rossi claims, is hard to come by for students whose parents have never navigated the system, especially if English is not their first language.

In the 2008-2009 school year, of the 80,113 first-generation college applicants in California, only 51.2 percent actually were enrolled, according to the University of California StatFinder.

Last year’s conference brought in 85 high school students, 55 parents and 23 younger siblings, and this year Rossi expects more to attend. She hopes, particularly, for more middle school students to come.

“We decided that if you’re only finding out about high school requirements when you go into high school, then you’re too late,” says Rossi. “We decided the conference should invite students grades 7 through 11.”

Funding for the conference came from local businesses and organizations including Jamba Juice and the Morgan Hill Kiwanis Club. Funds came in under the umbrella of the Morgan Hill Community Foundation.

The MHUSD also provided support for the event. Superintendent Wes Smith offered Project Roadmap the venue. Schools have been primarily responsible for spreading awareness to students and parents.

When asked about the districts involvement, Smith said, “I’ve learned that when someone comes to you with a good idea to support our kids, you get out of the way and provide whatever support you can.”


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