La Verne’s Third Annual Promise Scholars Day Encourages 8th Grade Students, Parents to Think about College
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s a question young people are asked countless times during their formative years. While the answer often differs with each response, what doesn’t change is the instinctive aspiration to develop talent and passion into a rewarding career.
An important follow-up question not often asked is how to best achieve that goal. In nearly every case, education is the path that leads to fulfillment, and yet most young people and their parents don’t start thinking about college until a high school diploma is nearly in hand.
The University of La Verne, in collaboration with the Ontario-Montclair School District (OMSD) Promise Scholars Program, hosted more than 250 eighth grade students from Ontario’s De Anza Middle School on March 15. The day’s objective was to give the youngsters and those parents also able to attend a chance to experience life on a college campus and begin a dialog about the future.
“With the students, we are asking them: ‘What are you going to do? What do you plan to do when you graduate from high school?’ For many, this is their first time really considering their future,” said Marga Madhuri, Associate Professor of Education and organizer of Promise Scholars Day sponsored by La Verne’s College of Education & Organizational Leadership.
“It’s about trying to get Ontario-Montclair students to get to college. We know a lot of our students don’t come from backgrounds where family members have been to college and that, financially, it might be more difficult for them to get there. We want to be that extra thing in their lives, giving information about college and, later on, being able to help them access financial aid,” said Lisa Keller, an AmeriCorps member who coordinates the district’s Promise Scholars fifth and eighth grade field trips.
“Even though it may seem bringing students to one college for one day doesn’t mean much, we find the experiential part of being on campus has real impact,” Keller said. “A lot of these students have never thought about college or have never stepped foot on a college campus before. The experience really shapes their view of college for years to come.”
As busses unloaded in front of Miller Hall, the middle school students were divided into groups and taken to various locations across the campus. They were shown a video featuring messages from University President Devorah Lieberman and La Verne students, encouraging them to think about attending college. After several group-building activities, the eighth graders heard from student volunteers who shared their personal stories and then invited questions about college life. Discussions ranged from playing sports to living (and eating) on campus to available classes and majors.
At the same time, the parents attended an information session in the Presidents Dining Room. Sharon Cruz-McKinney, the university’s Community Relations & Outreach Director, spoke of the importance of a college degree and answered questions.
“It’s about how to prepare their children to aspire toward college, how to support them, and the kinds of steps they can take to start thinking about paying for college – which is always the biggest concern. Many of (the parents) never went to college themselves and we want to give them a heads-up on what they can expect,” Cruz-McKinney said.
One parent active in the discussion was Edith Narranjo, who has one son in eighth grade at De Anza and another in 10th grade at Ontario High School. She came to learn about resources available to her and her boys.
“What I want from today is a clear picture of all that is available out there and our options. More than anything, I want to be able to prepare my sons for what is needed to go to a university,” Narranjo said. “I only went to high school and to a beauty college. Both my sons will be first-generation college students. I got very involved as a parent volunteer, doing all the hands-on work in the classroom. It opened my eyes to know that we have so many different resources and opportunities.”
Following their breakout sessions, all the visitors toured the campus. Lunch in Sneaky Park included an opportunity to contribute to mural paintings as part of the second annual Empowerment through Art and Graffiti (ETAG) event.
The day’s schedule concluded with students and parents gathering in the Ludwick Conference Center for a panel discussion by La Verne first-generation students.
According to Patti Harris, Coordinator for OMSD’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Program, the best result from the La Verne visit is giving students and parents a shared experience.
“What is really unique about the La Verne day, more than any of our other colleges, is La Verne invites the parents as well. We can talk to the kids all day long. But if they go home and their parents tell them, ‘No, we can’t do that,’ then we can’t make any headway,” Harris said. “Activities like this really open it up with the parents. They can actually see what a campus is like and feel comfortable that their kids are going to be okay here. Many parents are scared, so this provides opportunities to calm those fears and inform the families.”