Sandy Aguilar dreamed big for her kids. Like many parents, she envisioned her sons, now ages 10, 12 and 14, going off to college and pursuing successful careers. But as the years progressed, that dream began to feel like an impossible thought. The cost of college was getting beyond her reach and she didn’t even know where to start.
“Of course I wanted them to go to a university and have careers,” Aguilar said. “But I realized there was just no way we were ever going to afford it. It really is an awful feeling.”
During the initial planning of Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood, we learned that of the almost 7,000 residents in the Castle Park community, 67 percent never graduated from high school. However, a majority of the families surveyed said they talked to their kids about college, but it was to say there was simply no money to support that journey.
That’s why it was important for CVPromise to bring together partners with unique perspectives and expertise to support academic achievement as well as support life outside of the classroom. Reaching parents is important because they are a crucial part of children’s success. Students are more likely to graduate high school and go on to higher education when the whole family embraces college early as a “when” and not as an “if.”
CVPromise partner Barrio Logan College Institute, although new to Chula Vista, (BLCI) is not new to the challenges faced by our families and not new to success either. For the last 15 years, BLCI has provided after-school academic support to potential first generation college students in the Barrio Logan community. The program also focuses strategically on parent involvement.
Their results: 100% of their graduating students have been admitted to colleges and universities throughout the country.
BLCI brings that level of success to CVPromise with Chula Vista College Institute (CVCI), modeled after their program in Barrio Logan; this after-school program is designed specifically for the Castle Park community.
Currently, 20 Castle Park Elementary third graders are enrolled in the after-school program and 20 advanced students from fourth, fifth and sixth grades are enrolled in University Club, a leadership building program.
“The unique approach of our program is our connection with the family as a whole,” Karina Cremades, BLCI elementary school manager, said. “We are like their extra family member. We call, share, discuss, encourage and really do whatever we can to create a strong foundation and give them the resources and tools to get into college.”
Many of the families taking part in CVCI, including the Aguilar family, have a renewed outlook for their kid’s education.
Aguilar’s son Hemanuel was the first student to enroll in CVCI. Both she and her third grader signed contracts signifying their commitment to the program and their education. The after-school program focuses on preparing kids for college by setting a solid foundation through tutoring support, “steps to success” workshops and age-appropriate college and career-related activities.
Parents also take an active role and learn about various college options, college saving plans, financial aid, scholarships and other resources available.
“Hemanuel signed a contract promising that he was committed to his studies,” Aguilar said. “It made him feel important and he is starting to talk about goals.”
Recently, CVCI third grade students and their families visited San Diego State University. For many it was their first view of a college campus. For the students, it was an opportunity to explore the world of a university campus.
“Hemanuel says he wants to be a scientist.” Aguilar says. “I’m thrilled. But, no matter what he ends up studying, I feel more assured that he and his brothers will go to college. They’re going to get that dream.”
Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood is proud to partner with Castle Park Elementary, Castle Park Middle School, Castle Park High School, Hilltop Middle School and Hilltop High School to bring new opportunities and pathways of success to their students and families.
For more information, visit cvpromise.org or call (619) 422-5005.