UC Merced's Center for Educational Partnerships will be able to continue helping San Joaquin Valley parents and their children navigate the higher education system.
The center received a $30,000 gift for the 2012-13 academic year from the financial corporation Citi to continue the efforts it started in several high schools in Stanislaus and Madera counties last year, said Orquidea Largo, director at the Fresno-based center.
In 2011-12, with an initial gift of $33,000 from Citi, the center was able to expand its Parent Empowerment Program to Davis, Modesto and Turlock high schools, and to continue the program at two Madera County high schools.
"This additional funding will allow us to continue those efforts," Largo said.
The program also serves schools and parents as far south as Bakersfield. Those include several in Merced County, such as Merced, Buhach Colony and Delhi high schools.
The center started the Parent Empowerment Program in 2004 to work with parents on helping their children apply for college. It explains how to finance a college education and other aspects of higher education, she said.
From 2005 to 2011, the program was in 57 schools and served 6,260 parents.
The schools determine their target student populations, Largo said. The majority are first-generation college students from low-income families, she said.
A family's experience
Merced resident Blanca Arceo and her husband, David Arceo, took part in the program. Her oldest daughter, Lizandra Arceo, 17, who graduated from Merced High School, is getting ready to leave for UC Santa Cruz later this month.
She will be the first one in the family to attend a four-year college.
Blanca said she participated in the program because she wanted to learn to be able to help Lizandra go to college.
"Every year I learned a little bit more and a little bit more," she said. Now, "I know the process and how it works."
Blanca Arceo was able to visit three college campuses, including UC Santa Cruz, which she found helpful. "I wouldn't have gone on my own," she said, adding that she appreciated having the opportunity to visit the various campuses.
Today, Arceo even helps her nieces and nephews. She said it was a great program and would recommend that other parents participate. "Not all families know about this program," she said.
She hopes that the program will continue to be funded for years to come.
Programs such as Parent Empowerment are crucial, Largo said, because oftentimes parents lack knowledge about how the higher education system works.
Sometimes parents can become intimidated by that lack of knowledge, she said. "That also can prevent a student from pursuing a higher education," she said.
It has taken parent participants to tour colleges such as St. Mary's College, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, California State University, Northridge, and UC Merced.
Largo said those visits help show parents what kind of colleges their students can choose from if they decide to pursue their higher education goals. "We want to expose parents to institutions outside the Valley," she said.
Sometimes parents are unfamiliar with safety measures that are in place at the institutions. When parents go on a tour, they hear presentations from the institution's police departments, housing and health centers.
"So they know that if their children were to fall ill, there are services on campus that would be accessible to their children," she said.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.