MERCED — Merced High School students were urged not to be afraid of the cost of pursuing their higher education dreams.
That was the message of UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland, the keynote speaker a special university outreach and informational program conducted at Merced High on Thursday.
"Don't let the sticker price scare you," she told the students.
The event, Achieve UC, was organized by UC Merced in partnership with Merced High School and the University of California system. Chancellors at other UC campuses throughout the state took part in similar events at high schools near their campuses.
Leland said the program provides information to help academically prepare students to get into college.
It's also an opportunity to discuss the financial aid options. "It's to help people understand that despite the fiscal challenges, there's still a place for students who qualify," she said.
UC Merced officials engage local schools regularly, but this was the first time there was an assembly-style event, at which Leland and several former UC Merced students spoke to the high school students.
"It's nice to bring the campus to the high school," said Jane Lawrence, vice chancellor for student affairs at UC Merced.
Kuljit Kay Malhi, associate principal at Merced High School, said about 800 seniors, juniors and sophomores took part in the event. "We want our students to realize that they can go to college," she said.
Students received transcript evaluations before the event so they knew where they're at in terms of being admitted to college.
Malhi said students heard about the other options for higher education, such as the California State University system and the California Community College system.
"We hope that they (the students) can see the importance of doing well in school," she said.
Merced High School graduate Dulce Maria Anaya was among the former UC Merced students who spoke.
She completed her undergraduate studies at UC Merced in 2011, and she graduated from UCLA with her master's degree in student affairs this spring.
Anaya told students she wanted to attend UC Merced even before it was completed. Her parents would take trips to Lake Yosemite just to check out the progress of the campus, she said.
By the time she was ready to attend college, UC Merced had been operating for two years. She applied, got accepted and enjoyed her time there.
"It's just a great place to be," she told the students.
Today, Anaya is back at UC Merced as an employee in the Housing and Residence Life division.
Events such as Thursday's help high school students feel more confident about attending college, she said. "They identify with you," she said.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.