Help with financial aid packages, games and assemblies encourage college attendance
■ Chronicle News Service
San Jacinto Unified School District (SJUSD) held its annual College Kickoff Oct. 11 as part of the Riverside County College Kickoff Day events, an opportunity to promote the college application season and help students recognize the importance to plan for their college and career endeavors. SJUSD is committed to ensuring that all students graduate college and career ready. All 14 schools participated in activities, enabling all students to start thinking about post-secondary plans, including two and four-year college, trade school and/or the military.
High school seniors focused on completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the California Dream Act, and also completed a college application. Military recruiters met with San Jacinto High School seniors who plan on joining the military. Mtn. View High School counselor Justin Ryan encouraged students complete the FAFSA to see what aid they qualify for rather than limiting opportunities because of lack of funds.
Jordan Thom, a San Jacinto High School senior, said she completed the FAFSA form when it was made available on Oct. 1. “I’m most excited to have time to work on my applications to University of California schools today,” said Jordan. “Finishing my personal insight questions is my goal for today’s college-emphasis time.”
Students in grades nine through 11 at both the district’s high schools took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) and participated in college and career activities.
“Taking the PSAT has definitely narrowed down what to study (for the SAT) and made me realize what I don’t know and what is really easy for me,” said San Jacinto High sophomore Abel Buenrostro. “I also realize that eating, getting a lot of sleep and time management is key for taking the SAT because every section is timed and it can be hard to manage.”
The district’s Nutrition Services Department served a breakfast snack for each San Jacinto High student in classrooms throughout the campus. “We know how important it is for students to eat before testing, and we packaged 2,700 to-go meals and gathered all our staff to execute fast delivery this morning,” shared Director Tammy White. Her team wore their favorite college shirts at the central kitchen, keeping up with the district wide expectation that every staff member supports College Kickoff Day.
“SJUSD had college and career activities at all middle and elementary schools for the kickoff event, because planting the seed in all our students to start thinking about future possibilities can be a predictor of student success after high school,” said Dr. Vanessa Gomez, the SJUSD lead counselor.
At North Mountain Middle School, Principal Gil Rodriguez and his team held grade-level assemblies for students. They formed teams for a game that focused on understanding what high school classes are required, labeled A through G, to be eligible for a California state university. AVID tutors and college students from nearby Mt. San Jacinto College shared their advice during the assemblies about preparing for college, especially for those students that want to participate in college athletics.
Park Hill Elementary held an enthusiastic pep assembly where the school’s mascot, Bryson the Bison, cheered with the students as Assistant Principal Matt Norris pointed out all the various colleges and universities attended by Park Hill staff.
“Friendly competition is good between colleges,” said Norris. “My school was San Diego State, and I’m challenging kindergarten teacher Mrs. Lopez, who went to Boise State, that my football team will beat her team this Saturday, or she can put a pie in my face.”
Other activities at the elementary included students completing an “I’m going to college” pledge as part of the day’s classroom lessons.
Even San Jacinto Preschool participated. “We can’t start too early in sharing the bright future for students to attend college,” said Preschool Director Liz Zaragoza. “Our message at preschool is also for parents, telling them now that their child deserves to go to college.”
Diane Perez, SJUSD Superintendent, said the district was ready for the challenge from the County to promote college and career readiness.
“This is our vision for all our students, and celebrating College Kickoff Day on every campus, from our preschools to high schools, signifies our commitment to preparing all students to be successful as they choose their own unique future,” said Perez.