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College acceptance surpasses once limited expectations Andrea Martino | Thu, May 11 2017 12:45 PM

After a year of SAT and ACT exams, financial aid workshops, college essays, applications, and a heavy senior course load, two Hilltop High School students will conclude the year with top honors and a fulfilled dream.
Driven and studious, Sarah Esparza, 17, and Paloma Moreno, 17, both held rigorous class schedules throughout their high school career, in addition to holding internships or volunteer positions in the community and taking part in school sports. Academically, their hard work paid off.

Esparza, graduating with a 4.51 GPA and Moreno, graduating with a 4.49 GPA have earned the roles of Valedictorian and Salutatorian, respectively.

Although one would assume that as the school’s best and the brightest, Esparza and Moreno had a solid college bound journey. Unfortunately, while they hoped to attend the universities of their dreams, without many resources or family to help guide the journey, they thought it unlikely.

Moreno said while the expectations to achieve academically were supported at home, the exposure to college and college resources were low.

“I didn’t think getting into a big school was a possibility,” Moreno said. “I didn’t really see that in my community.”
Last year, as high school juniors, Esparza and Moreno began to take part in Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood (CVPromise) programs. As members of CVPromise’s student-led Club U, they rose to leadership positions organizing events to help others like themselves learn more about college and college attainment. With the support of CVPromise Academic Advocates, Esparza and Moreno along with their families received personalized support in navigating their academic aspirations and were connected to various resources and opportunities.

“With the help of Club U and CVPromise, (university) became more of a reality,” Moreno said.  “They gave me confidence in my potential and how far I could go.

Both Esparza and Moreno took part in activities such as college campus tours, application workshops and programs such as the ENLACE Summer Summit, a bi-national summer research program at the University of California, San Diego.

“CVPromise has been really helpful, especially in the college application process,” Esparza said. “I didn’t really have anyone who could read my essays and guide me on what they should include or to help me decide which colleges to apply to. All I knew is that I wanted to be an engineer.”

Esparza applied to eight universities, including University of California, Davis, Brown and MIT. She accepted admission to the University of California, Los Angeles to pursue a degree in bioengineering.

Moreno applied to 11 universities including Harvard, Barnard and Yale. Moreno accepted admission to Stanford University pursuing a degree in biology and hopes to incorporate social sciences such as anthropology or archeology in her studies.

For the past four years, CVPromise has supported the college enrollment of more than 230 low-income students, many of whom were first in their family. Today, there is 93% retention rate. This school year, 48 CVPromise students from Hilltop High School and Castle Park High School will attend four-year universities; 41 will attend local community colleges and three plan to attend a vocational college.

CVPromise is proud to partner with Castle Park Elementary, Castle Park Middle, Castle Park High School, Hilltop Middle and Hilltop High School to bring new opportunities and pathways of success for their students and families. For more information, visit CVPromise.org or call (619) 422-5005.

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