By Julia Guest
Campus News Reporter

Middle-school and high-school students from South Monterey County piled into the Porter/Kresge Dining Hall on Saturday to begin their preparation for college early. Students and their families sat at tables draped in blue and yellow tablecloths and listened to speakers standing under an arch of similarly slug colored balloons. On the stage, key representatives of UCSC’s Educational Partnership Center spoke about college as a necessity and possibility for all.

The Educational Partnership Center (EPC) is an outreach program connected with Student Affairs at UCSC. The program works with schools in Monterey Bay, Silicon Valley and San Jose regions to help integrate college academic preparation into low-income communities. The center’s staff and approximately 200 interns offer free workshops and academic tutoring and mentoring for these mostly first-generation college students.

Maria Leyva, south zone assistant director for South Monterey County for EPC, spoke at the annual event “The College Family Conference: Making the University Dream a Reality.”

“Today is an opportunity for parents to visualize their kid on a college campus, to have a visual cue for that, and to know that [their kids] have the right to access the university,” Leyva said.

Levya, who graduated from UCSC in 1997 and grew up in Gonzales, Calif., commented on the importance of serving these low-income communities with schools that do not necessarily integrate the college vision.

“My first college paper was not acceptable,” Gonzales said. “But I was an honors student at my high school, so there’s a huge disparity.”

At the College Family Conference, Jacqueline Dominguez-Adler, director of development and communication for EPC, led a workshop that reviewed requirements for UC schools and financial aid information with parents and middle-school students.

“Take art your junior or sophomore year,” Dominguez-Adler said. “It’s an easy A, and colleges focus on your grades during those years.”

After the workshop, families stood in line for lunch outside of the Porter/Kresge Dining Hall. Carlos, a 13-year-old student from Greenfield, Calif. who asked to be referred to only by his first name, waited with his father.

Carlos said he learned about his options after high school.

“Now I know what to do,” he said.

His father also appreciated the event. He told Carlos, “You’ve got an idea of what you can do in the future. You’re 13, but college is coming up fast.”

Carrol Moran, executive director and founder of EPC in 1999, stressed the importance of seeing college as an opportunity for people of all different backgrounds.

“It’s important that the decision whether to go to college is not made for them before age 18,” Moran said. “Let them make the choice and then be prepared.”