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August 5, 2002

UCSC in the News

At the heart of UCSC's K-12 outreach efforts, the Educational Partnership Center works year-round to encourage youngsters to start preparing early for college. Outreach counselors work at regional high schools to help students meet admission requirements, and a bevy of campus programs are designed to demystify college for prospective students, many of whom will be the first in their family to pursue a four-year degree.

At Watsonville High School, the center's work is apparent in the largest number ever of graduates who are heading to college this fall. The story below appeared on the front page of the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian on July 26, 2002. It is reprinted with permission.

College admissions soar at Watsonville High

By Dave Brooks
of the Register-Pajaronian

The words "college preparation" aren't always the first things that come to mind when one thinks of Watsonville High School. Yet with the success of this year's graduating class, that is all about to change. Citing the largest number of students going to a four-year school ever, Watsonville High will be sending 110, or 20 percent, of its graduating class to four-year colleges throughout the country.

As far as Lake Forest, Illinois, to Brigham Young University in Utah, Watsonville is spreading out its students all over the map. The majority of students will be attending school in California, with 50 going to University of California campuses and another 44 heading to state colleges.

Equally impressive is the whopping 275 students, roughly half the senior class, who will be extending their education by going on to community college.

By far the highest amount of college-bound seniors in any year, the 75 percent increase stems from a collaboration between WHS and the UC Santa Cruz Educational Partnership Center (EPC).

"We are seeing what happens when high schools, colleges, and the community all dance together to help our students get admitted to college," said WHS Principal Larry Lane

The EPC, started in 1998, works with educators, community leaders, and students to ensure that more students are college-bound. Sixty-two percent of students accepted into college attended the EPC's preparation program that includes admission exam preparation, application completion, and fee waivers.

"Young people need to know that if they work hard and challenge themselves they can make it," said valedictorian Kari Edwards. Accepted at Fresno State University, Edwards plans to study interior design and one day open up her own boutique. She says she's looking forward to college because, "it will be a great opportunity to meet new people and live in a different environment."

The secret to the program's success is to steer kids in the right direction. "We individually track hundreds of kids starting in ninth grade," said program coordinator Laurel Perotti. "We try to identify which students are only missing a few classes and get them the courses they need for a successful career."

One of the most important things students need to be prepared for college is math ability.

"Algebra is the gateway to college admission, and if a student can't pass the course by ninth grade, their ability to secure admission at a four-year school lessens."

To help ensure success, the program re-teaches algebra during the summer to students who previously failed the course. "This year 65 percent of the students who participated in the course passed," said Perotti.

Another important element of the school's success was lowering its absenteeism. "The teachers now use a computer-automated system which calls home to parents each time a student misses a class," said Perotti. Playing a message in both Spanish and English, the system "acts as a partner between educators and parents to motivate young people to go to class."

Perotti believes that the numbers of college admissions will continue to increase.

"This has the potential to have a snowball effect. As students see their peers and siblings going away as the first members in their family to attend a university, they become motivated and want to do something with their lives," said Perotti.

College admission doesn't change the way these students are seen by others, it changes the way they see themselves. "The culture around these kids has begun to change. More students are looking at themselves as university material with the chance to make something of their lives."

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