An inventive outreach program jumpstarts college careers.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
No classes were officially in session at CSU Monterey Bay last month, but the halls of building 45 rang with student spirit. In a conference room, small groups discussed icons and what they stood for. Next, they created symbols to represent those things– music, sustainability, academics.
“Some icons are serious, some are joking around– but it doesn’t matter, as long as it brings out their character,” says Jose Ortiz, a local muralist who led the group’s creative flow.
This was not a college art class. This was Imagine College, where high school students starting 10th grade in the fall can explore art, film and science. Students from any school in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District can participate, but those from Seaside High, if they keep a 2.75 GPA through high school, will receive a $1,000 scholarship for each year they go to college.
In a place where high school-to-college transfer rates are low, program director Joan Weiner says, Imagine College seeks to “give students a sense that, if they want to go to college, that dream can come true.”
The classes in the program’s two weeklong sessions aren’t necessarily meant to teach them more about academic subjects, but to inspire creativity and expression.
“Most ninth-graders in the Seaside area don’t have much of a voice,” program coordinator Shannon Edwards says. “Here, they explore more about who they are.”
In the program’s filmmaking class, students scripted a short film about high school life. “A couple of them were about bullying,” says Steven Levinson, a CSUMB film professor. “In one, a freshman boy is surrounded by three older bullies,” he says, “and the freshman starts to laugh when all of a sudden the bullies are surrounded by freshmen with water balloons.
“They saw that college isn’t a place to be scared or intimidated by– it’s a realistic option and it can be fun.”
As Seaside High student Brianna Butler paints the words “you can’t achieve what you don’t attempt, so reach for the stars” on an icon-filled mural, she says participating in the program instills something key to her future: “It proves to me anyone can go to college no matter what.”