Veronica Taylor Ramirez
SPECIAL TO EL OBSERVADOR
University of California Berkeley Chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, along with other top administrators visited Abraham Lincoln High School in San Jose for a school-day-long event to promote higher education on November 2.
“To encourage the students from whatever backgrounds they come from to apply to a university and to realize that education is going to be their pathway to a better life,” is the purpose of the visit,” said Birgeneau.
UC officials will also visit other schools in California as a part of their Achieve UC program. The goal of the program is to connect with 10,000 low income students at high schools from throughout the states that have lower than expected college attendance rates.
Birgeneau began his day at Abraham Lincoln by speaking with a group of seniors that have met UC admission requirements. Parents were also welcome to attend to learn about specific college readiness material that are available as well as admission requirements.Later on, Birgeneau addressed 300 students, comprised of juniors and sophomores. Students were presented with information to keep them on the college bound track. The high school participates in an educational partnership with UC Berkeley. This past summer, students who are going to be the first in their families to go to college were selected to partake in a summer school course that taught students to write personal statements.
“I would say that Lincoln was chosen because of the strong partnership that we have built with UC Berkeley, in our writing curriculum and with our parent curriculum that we’ve worked closely with UC Berkeley,” said Olga Morales Anaya, academic counselor at Abraham Lincoln High School. In the future, this partnership will expand throughout San Jose School District and become available for grades 9-12. Students were also shown various financial aid information, in particular Berkeley’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan. This plan ensures that students’ whose families earn under $80,000 annually will not have to pay tuition at UC Berkeley.
Abraham Lincoln High School Principal, Matthew Hewitson said the event was successful because it not only provided information, but also a personal story.“I think telling some of their own stories about being first generation college students and what it takes to overcome those challenges and the kind of persistence it takes to, but what the payoff, not just for our students, but for future generation of their own families” said Hewitson. Students Julia Lopez and Mariel Viano agree.
“It was great honor to have the chancellor from Berkeley come and speak to us, being a public school we don’t always get the same privileges that other private universities do,” said Julia, a senior at Abraham Lincoln.“The UC writing program is being expanded to all the schools in our district and giving each student the opportunity to succeed and go to 4-year university is really powerful.” Julia is hoping to become a pre-law major or a political science major. She hopes go into the pro-bono practice of law to serve her community. “I liked the presentation a lot, because it taught me a lot information, especially about UC Berkeley,” said Mariel, senior at Abraham Lincoln. Mariel also felt more prepared for the UC admissions process because of the summer program she attended which taught her how to properly write a personal statement.Mariel is hoping to major in biology to become a doctor to work with cancer patients.
Birgeneau’s visit is just one of many events that Abraham Lincoln High School coordinates for their students. The school is adamant about creating a college going culture for not only their student body, but also for parents. The school offers monthly workshops for both students and parents presented in English and Spanish.In the past, protests were held at UC Berkeley for not admitting enough Latino or African American students.
“Both the vice chancellor and myself work all of the time with Latino students and so we believe we have very good relations with them, said Birgeneau. “We’re working consistently to try to increase the representation of all different groups including Latinos.”Abraham Lincoln High School has 1,800 students, 1,200 of which are Latino. As the day ended students walked away with information about the UC admission process and something a little more. Sophomore Daniel Cervantez said, “You don’t need to come from a high background, you can come for nowhere and become something great.”