Mountain View Voice

News - December 31, 2010

Class breaks down college barriers At-risk kids learn how to get into higher education

by Nick Veronin

Sometimes, the most important step in getting at-risk youths to consider college is simply getting them to believe they can be accepted at a college or university in the first place.

But even if they can be convinced, reams of paperwork and daunting questions about tuition and financial aid are in the way — and, all too often, prove to be insurmountable obstacles for on-the-fence students.

The Bridge to College Program, which launches at Alta Vista High School in January, aims to convince some of those students to pursue higher degrees using positive reinforcement and a little bit of "hand holding," according to Denise Swett, associate vice president of Foothill College's Middlefield Campus and community programs.

The program comes in the form of a 12-week class, taught on the Alta Vista campus for two days each week. There, students will learn how to register for classes, make appointments with counselors, and apply for financial aid and scholarships — the basics, Swett said.

"Instead of having them go find the information, we bring the information to them and show them that they can do it," Swett said. Students at Alta Vista, the Mountain View-Los Altos high school district's continuation school, "are some of our most high-risk students. They've had difficulty in the education system already. You want to take down whatever barriers are in their way."

While Swett knows how hard it can be to get some students interested in college, she also knows the consequences awaiting those who forgo a higher education.

"Sure, you can go get a job without a degree, but I'm not sure you're going to be able to live off of it or support a family," Swett said. "The data show that people with more education make more money."

The data also show that as an individual's level of education rises, the likelihood that he or she will be unemployed drops. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in November the unemployment rate for adults 25 and older with a high school degree but no college was 10 percent. That rate drops to 8.7 percent for those with some college or an associate's degree. Only about 5 percent of those with a bachelor's degree or higher were unemployed.

Swett hopes that Bridge to College will help students who normally would give up on education after high school to continue into community college and maybe even make it to a four-year school.

"It's critical that everybody has an opportunity for education," she said. "Education is the only thing that will get them out of poverty and change these families' lives."

The program, which runs from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., Mondays and Wednesdays at Alta Vista, is free and open to anyone who is a junior in high school or older. Swett said there will be about 35 seats available in the class.

Comments

Posted by Ceceile, a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 1, 2011 at 5:34 am

I kept waiting to read about the AP courses and accelerated academic classes that were being offered. I thought the best way to get into college was to study hard and take challenging course work and to take school seriously. Nowhere are these things mentioned in this program. A college education is not just about getting admitted to Foothill College to extend your high school year. This program should be more about excelling in academics.


Posted by Mountain View Resident, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 5, 2011 at 10:59 pm

What about the at-risk youth at another Mountain View alternative school, View Side Academy? That school has seen teacher after teacher...administrator after administrator. The school is a dumping ground and the "dirty little secret" of MVLA, Palo Alto, Mountain View Whisman, and Fremont Union districts. The school is tucked safely in an inconspicuous industrial location, hidden away from public scrutiny and accountability. This school year alone there have been gang fights in the classrooms, fire on campus, and a teacher accused of assault! Why isn't anyone writing stories about those kids? Where is their bridge program? Who will help prepare these students for the CAHSEE?


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