For Melissa Ugaldes and many San Joaquin Valley high school students like her, a University of California education might not be an obvious option. That’s why leaders from UC Merced visited Madera South High School on Tuesday to speak to 11th- and 12th-graders as part of Achieve UC.
“I never really thought about attending a UC because I will be the first one in my family to go to college,” said Ugaldes, a senior at Madera South. “It was really eye-opening and fun. Now, I realize I do have a good chance to get in there.”
The idea behind the systemwide initiative is to inspire students to aim for college, then provide them with the information they need to get there.
“Some of you may think college is out of reach for you. You may think it is too expensive and you can’t afford it, and that the University of California may be out of reach for you,” UC Merced Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Thomas Peterson said. “If you’re willing to give your best possible effort, I can assure you that there will be ample resources available to you at UC Merced.”
Nearly 400 Madera South and Madera high school students learned about the application process and received personalized transcripts that highlight where they stand and the specific courses they need for admission to California’s public four-year colleges. They also were given information about grants and scholarships designed to make college affordable to all Californians – opportunities such as the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which covers the full cost of tuition for students whose families earn $80,000 a year or less.
Madera Unified Superintendent Edward Gonzalez said the outreach event was a great way for students to learn more about the resources available to them.
“I think that true education is exposure,” Gonzalez said. “When students have an opportunity to be exposed to new ideas, a new possibility in life — that is what education should be to them.”
Top leaders from all 10 UC campuses have visited high schools across the state this fall, delivering the message that college is attainable.
Achieve UC will reach more than 10,000 high school students across the state from low-income communities and schools with lower than average college-going rates.
\“Let me assure you, you belong at UC Merced,” Peterson said. “We have so many people who are here to make sure that you are successful. Your success is our success.”
Achieve UC builds upon existing programs UC Merced's Center for Educational Partnerships already has in place to help put students on a path to college including UC Scholars EAOP, Talent Search Program, Upward Bound Program, UC Scholars Migrant Program and the Parent Empowerment Program.