California State University, Fullerton

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Pair of Programs Push for College Preparation

Sept. 10, 2012

Mildred García

CSUF President Mildred García spoke at “Destino Universidad.” Photo: Matt Gush

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Gloria Marroquin and her 14-year-old son Daniel spent Saturday morning loading up on college knowledge. Clutching campus brochures, financial aid guides and other information, the grateful mom and son were just two of about 1,000 people who converged on Cal State Fullerton Sept. 8 to take part in two events aimed at preparing underrepresented youths for admission and success in higher education.
 
“We are learning so many things we didn’t know about getting into college,” said Marroquin, who attended “Destino Universidad,” a bilingual college-planning event co-sponsored by the College Board. “This is just awesome. My son wants to be an aerospace engineer, and he is learning what it takes to get into a good school and pursue his dream.”
 
Daniel echoed his mother’s sentiments: “I’m learning I have a lot of options, and I can do it if I prepare.”
 
That was the point of both Destino Universidad and the 16th annual Parent and Student Educational Symposium, presented by the Council of African American Parents. At both events, representatives from parent and student support groups and from area colleges and universities provided information about academic programs, financial aid and student services. In addition, speakers talked movingly to their audiences about pursuing college degrees, even when faced with obstacles.

“I'm a first-generation college graduate,” CSUF President Mildred García told those gathered for Destino Universidad. “I started out in Brooklyn, New York. My parents worked in factories, poor, but they knew that the only inheritance that a poor family could leave you is a good education. … And, here I am, president of Cal State Fullerton because of a university education. So, I say to you, if a kid from Brooklyn can make it from a factory family to the presidency, what can you do?”
 
Civil rights attorney Constance “Connie” Rice, author of “Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman's Quest for Social Justice in America, from the Courtroom to the Kill Zones,” delivered the keynote address at the Parent and Student Educational Symposium.
 
“Let’s be clear,” said Rice, a Harvard Law School graduate. “It’s not enough to just get out of high school and get into college. You have to go the extra mile. You have to get a culture of overachievement, become super achievers. It has to be ingrained. I want you to focus on mastering what’s in front of you.”
 
She said that she and her cousin, Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state, come from slavery.
 
“The Rice slaves in my family worked in the slave-owner’s home, so they were taught to read,” Rice said. “When my ancestors came off the Rice plantation, they knew how to read. I am fourth-generation college educated. Condoleezza and I should be at the top of our game. A lot of folks came from slavery. They’d have been beaten if they opened a book, but we had a jump start. I should be excelling, and we have an obligation to do as much as we can to pull everybody forward with us. Know your history and push yourself.”
 
Many of the youngsters in attendance at both college-planning events will be the first in their families to attend college, and the information they received Saturday will help them navigate their way to a college degree.
 
Besides college planning, speakers also explained the challenges involved in creating a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who are college students and military service members. They talked about AB 540, the California law that allows undocumented and out-of-state students to be exempt from paying non-resident tuition at public colleges and universities; and President Barack Obama’s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” a program allowing some young undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and work legally for two years.
 
Immigration attorney and CNN radio host Rosa Elena Sahagun provided a step-by-step session in Spanish and English on the application forms that are available at www.uscis.gov and the eligibility requirements for the deferred action program.
 
“Education is the most important goal,” Berenecea Y. Johnson Eanes, CSUF vice president for student affairs, said about both events. “We are dedicated to serving the community and opening our doors so that students will choose higher education.”
 
Added Eddie Arteaga, College Board senior educational manager: “For every 100 students in the United States who start the first grade, fewer than 30 graduate from high school and even fewer graduate from college.”
 
“That is a very scary statistic,” he said. “That’s why the College Board's Destino Universidad program provides resources. We know a college education is not easy, and it’s not cheap.”
 
Arteaga left a room full of students with several suggestions: “I want you to really invest in your future. Think about what you want to do the rest of your life. Preparation is key. You have college, career and funding options available to you. College is possible.”

By: Mimi Ko Cruz, 657-278-7586

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