Over the course of three days and two nights, high school seniors invited to UC Santa Cruz by Student Initiated Outreach (SIO) programs experienced more than the average Spring Spotlight tour. With funding from Engaging Education (e²), the SIO programs allowed Destination Higher Education (DHE), Filipino Student Association (FSA) and Oportunidades Rumbo a la Educación (ORALE) to reach out to low-income students who were already accepted to UCSC for fall 2014. The weekend included workshops, tours and networking opportunities for potential Slugs to meet fellow admitted students and current UCSC students. The SIO programs work closely with the Admissions and Financial Aid offices in outreaching, with a central goal of increasing access to higher education for students from under-resourced communities.

DHE Challenges Lack of African-American/Black Students

By Alexandria Love

The percentage of African-American students attending UC Santa Cruz was at 2 percent last year, according to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s campus demographics data. To be in such a small minority on such a large campus might be a little intimidating to some, but Destination Higher Education (DHE) uses it as a gateway for change.

DHE, a program funded by Engaging Education, strives to change this stigma for good — and is starting with the newest potential members of UCSC’s African-American/ black community, said DHE volunteer Dominic Calhoun.

“We were real with them by telling our stories,” Calhoun said. “We told them about the insensitivities certain non-people-of-color and other people of color alike have for black people because of ignorance. This broke down the facade the university proudly flaunts about diversity because they heard an experimental perspective.”

DHE alone brought 35 participants — 22 from Southern California and 13 from the Bay Area. While the high school seniors have not made any final decisions, many of the students selected for the program expressed that they are strongly considering spending the next four years at UCSC.

For three days, the students were on campus, some of whom had been accepted into schools such as Puget Sound, University of San Francisco and the University of Seattle. While many of the students expressed that race was a large factor in deciding whether or not they would feel comfortable at a specific university, many of them still favored UCSC.

However, the lack of diversity in the student body remains on the minds of many prospective students brought to campus by DHE.

“This campus is, like, hella white,” a high school. His outburst was greeted by a sea of giggles from his fellow students, many of whom clapped and murmured in agreement.

But for Jesse Perkins, another high school senior considering UCSC in the fall, the lack of diversity on campus wasn’t too much of an issue — in fact, he found it motivating. He said this drives him to want to try harder to change the stereotypes of black students in the community.

Yet,  Melissa Lyken, a high school student and a part of DHE, got the biggest response from her peers when she criticized the UC for not prioritizing diversity among its students.

“We need to be able to have some form of community bond, someone who has the same experience as you,” Lyken said. “It’s important to think about the next time the UC preaches diversity, since there are none of us here. We have to face facts that a lot of what we want to do is not going to be done.”

Making Connections Through ASF

by Katie Murar

For 18 years, the Filipino Student Association (FSA) has successfully hosted A Step Forward (ASF) to provide a tight-knit, peer-to-peer community advocating the pursuit of higher education.

Jessica Siasoco, Kenny Chiem and Kaysi Wheeler, all third-year undergraduates, coordinated the event with the help of student interns and various volunteers.

“This is one of the greatest ASFs I have seen,” Wheeler said, who has been involved in the event since her senior year of high school when she attended ASF 15 in 2011. “As a first-year, I was a volunteer, last year I was an intern and this year I was a coordinator, so I have definitely seen the program grow.”

ASF allows students to meet others from Filipino or Asian Pacific Islander backgrounds. Wheeler said one of the most important facets to ASF is making students aware that they can pursue higher education — what they thought was previously impossible is actually attainable.

“ASF promotes higher education,” Wheeler said. “While we would love for them to come to Santa Cruz, we always tell the participants that it doesn’t matter where you go. As long as they can find a home in a school where they feel comfortable and welcome, that is all that matters because we just want to see them succeed.”

Photo by Oscar Sanchez.
Photo by Oscar Sanchez.

Second-year intern Valerie Vance spoke about the success of this year’s event at the closing ceremony, titled BMC, or “Begin, Maintain, Continue.”

“We’ve had 41 participants, mostly Filipino, but also other Asian Pacific Islanders, and a lot of them have been saying that they want to come to UC Santa Cruz because of the program,” Vance said.

This event, along with other student-initiated outreach programs, had instances in which high school participants faced intimidations from UCSC students living in the Cowell College dorms. Vance related a story from 2013 — her first year as an intern for the program — when UCSC students threw objects at the participants. Vance was among the few who were hit. Nobody was injured from the incident.

“We didn’t experience huge issues [this year], and the RAs, CAs and CSOs worked with us to help everyone feel safe,” Vance said. “As UCSC students, we’re all a part of the Santa Cruz culture. We’re here for the same reason — to pursue higher education.”

Despite the event having begun a mere 48 hours before, Vance emphasized how close the participants had already become, making the goodbyes extremely difficult. Vance, who attended ASF in 2012, said this program was what inspired her to attend a university and made her realize the importance of the college experience.

“It’s the most intense feeling, whether you are a participant or a volunteer. It’s so hard to say goodbye because [the participants] trust you,” Vance said. “We help teach them about their identity and they find out a lot about themselves, but above all we show them that they are wanted here at UCSC.”

Promoting Higher Education and Cultural Identity for Latin@s

by Joel Escobedo

Oportunidades Rumbo A La Educación (ORALE) focuses on Latino/as who often lack sufficient resources to make an informed decision on attending a four-year university. Student coordinators offer advice, support and sources on how to transition into college life smoothly. ORALE’s principal student coordinator Sauli Colio shared her goal of encouraging her group of 45 students to pursue an undergraduate career.

“It’s very hard to be a first-generation student when your parents don’t know anything about college, let alone speak English, and that kind of hits home,” Colio said. “College should be made accessible and affordable for everyone. Everyone deserves to be pushed to pursue higher education.”

In a span of one week, about 60 ORALE coordinators and volunteers outreached to a total of 900 admitted students this year from across California. Three-hundred of those admitted students applied to participate in ORALE, and of those, 45 were chosen based on their response to a question about how their race, ethnicity or identity affects their pursuit of higher education.

SIO programs have relied on dormitory lounges to house prospective students in the spring. However, many of these lounges have been converted into triples to accommodate an increase in the student population. Consequently, housing for ORALE participants diminished — this year, space was limited to only 45 participants.

The yearly program runs for a total of three days and two nights. Students arrived at Quarry Plaza last Thursday and attended a variety of events, from a mock lecture by assistant professor Adrian Felix to a workshop by La Colectiva — a group of Latino/a artists — that demonstrated how art can be a form of expression as well as resistance.

At the presentation, students formed a chant circle, and each produced a particular sound that, when heard together, formed a cohesive melody. Activities such as these echoed that the power of the individual and their personal identity can be made stronger as a collective whole, an ideology expressed on the back of the ORALE t-shirt reading, “Legacy of resistance, embracing our identity.”

Photo by Camille Carrillo.
Photo by Camille Carrillo.

Student participant Nicole Ramos of San Diego said the program had been a “great experience” and motivated her.

“I only know one other Hispanic who has gone to college and graduated,” Ramos said. “I want to set the path for future generations. I want to be the one in [SIO] in a few years to help the ones who are coming in.”

ORALE’s principal student coordinator Sauli Colio’s fondest memory from last year was when a participant asked another to go to prom, both from the same high school. This year, Colio enjoyed Friday’s Raza Poetry Night the most, noting that many students were thoroughly engaged. Everyone remained engaged throughout the entire three days, Colio said.

Colio noted that taunts and intimidation tactics had been used in the past by current students to dissuade participants. No major taunt was reported this year, although Ramos expressed a minor incident outside her housing lounge. A group of students were heard laughing and seen pointing fingers outside the College Nine and Ten lounge that her group slept in, yet she remained unfazed.

“You just have to try harder and show them what’s up,” Ramos said. “I want to show them that I’m here to succeed.”