South Merced’s Underserved Students to Benefit from Grant to UC Merced

MERCED - The University of California, Merced, received funding to further a relationship with the Boys and Girls Club of Merced County, the Community Partnership Alliance and local schools, and to establish two academic enrichment programs and a parent program.

The $30,000 grant from the University of California Office of the President will support the South Merced University-Community Engagement Initiative.

"This grant-funding opportunity was highly competitive," said Barbara Roberts, Coordinator for University-Community Engagement for the UC Office of the President, in a letter to UC Merced. "We commend the efforts of our UC Merced campus colleagues and community partners for their commitment to developing and sustaining rigorous programs … to raise student achievement levels and close achievement gaps."

A summer enrichment program will offer math instruction to 60 low-income, first-generation students entering the ninth grade in fall 2007. Organizers hope to help students be better prepared for high-school-level math, increasing the odds that they will also be better prepared for college.

During the 2007-08 school year, 50 low-income, first-generation 10th-graders will receive more instruction in math and English language arts. This enriched teaching is designed to help them prepare for and pass the California High School Exit Exam.

The third program is designed to help parents understand college eligibility, how financial aid works, how to get their children on the college track and keep them there and more.

"We're committed to building effective university-community partnerships," said Jorge Aguilar, Special Assistant to the Chancellor and Director of the UC Merced Center for Educational Partnerships. "We want to foster a sustainable commitment to policies and actions that stretch beyond our campus walls and benefit area residents."

UC Merced and the Community Partnership Alliance have a signed pact to work together with different groups and agencies in the Merced area to ensure the academic, cultural and economic benefits of UC Merced are shared by all.

"This project demonstrates the initiative of UC Merced leaders to leverage their academic strength to bring much-needed funding and programs into our community," said Steve Roussos, president of the Community Partnership Alliance. "It also illustrates the shared strategy of the Community Partnership Alliance and UC Merced to co-facilitate community change through established and trustworthy organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club."

Aguilar meets monthly with the Alliance, and they came up with this plan to help students often disregarded because of educational, economic, language and cultural barriers.

The students who will take part in the program are from South Merced, an area of the city with the highest concentration of minorities. The 2000 Census shows that South Merced is the only area in the city where whites do not constitute more than 50 percent of the population. In fact, 44.5 percent of Merced's population is non-Latino white, while South Merced's non-Latino white population is only 9.2 percent.

Because it's based in South Merced, the Boys and Girls Club of Merced County is a natural partner, too. The club has 1,022 youth members, ages 6-18, and offers programs that help develop self-esteem and sense of usefulness as citizens.

This funding comes at an important time for the Boys and Girls Club, as it is actively searching for funding to expand its programs to improve youth interest and preparedness for higher education.

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