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El Observador

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This graduation season, San Jose’s Downtown College Prep celebrates ten years of college success at their June 5th graduation.

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This year, the public charter high school will graduate 75 students, all of whom are college bound.  Opening its doors in 2000, as the first charter school in Silicon Valley, DCP has graduated more than 500 students with a 96 percent college bound rate throughout the decade. “Our mission is to take students who were the first in their families to go to college and achieve college success and to prepare them to be accepted to a university,” said Jennifer Andaluz, Executive Director and Co-Founder of DCP.

A large portion of the student body are low-income and first generation college bound students.

DCP’s class of 2014 includes 85 percent first generation college bound students along with 89 percent from low income households. In comparison to other low income students nation wide, DCP students are four times more likely to graduate from college in six years.

Starting off with only one campus downtown, DCP has grown to include 2 middle schools and one high school located in Alum Rock.

Andaluz credits the school’s success to the school culture and alumni support. “Our entire culture and program is focused on a single goal. Every student shares that goal. We begin to talk about college success and career success and what students aspirations are for their life from the minute they enter DCP,” said Andaluz. “There’s so much confidence and identity built around the idea that these students can achieve this really great milestone for themselves and their family.”

Once students graduate they are still supported by the campus. DCP provides counseling and coaching to alumni to help them adjust with their transition to college life. Counseling is also provided to alumni’s families so they can provide support during the transition as well.

DCP Alumni also created a volunteer alumni advisory board to coach and mentor current students. The advisory board also oversees other projects like a scholarship fund and committee.

Next school year, three  alumni will return to offer even more support and guidance, but this time as teachers. Luis Falcon, a 2006 alumnus will teach sixth grade social science. Falcon received his bachelor’s degree in history from University of California Santa Cruz this spring.

“Coming in from a public school that was assigned to me, for me at least, it was a culture shock.” said Falcon, recalling his first visit to campus. “Coming into Downtown College Prep and seeing college banners everywhere, emphasizing that I can go to a four year university and be a the first in my family to accomplish that.”

Falcon said that at his previous school, college was not presented as an option for him. Falcon immigrated from Mexico at age six from Lagos de Moreno in the state of Jalisco.

“At UC Santa Cruz I would look around and I noticed that I was one of the only students of color. That motivated me to go back to my old neighborhood. I knew that I was going to teach in the east side of San Jose and help get students, like myself, into college classrooms,” said Falcon. “I saw what teachers did for me when I was at Downtown College Prep and I want to make sure that I can do the same thing for them.” DCP’s Latino high school graduates, like Falcon, are four times more likely to attend a CSU or UC in comparison to Latino high school graduates nationwide.

The tenth anniversary celebration and graduation was dedicated to the late Father Mateo Sheedy of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish. Sheedy’s efforts helped in the formation of DCP as he lead the movement for education attainment. Sheedy’s goal was for all children, despite economic income to receive the best education possible.

Downtown College Prep’s graduation ceremony and anniversary celebration began at 5:00pm at the Downtown San Jose Convention Center.

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© 2011 news el observador ·A weekly newspaper serving Latinos in the San Francisco Bay Area
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