Alisha Sanchez started out well in high school, but after her freshman year, began to decline academically. She stopped playing basketball, and started taking advice from the wrong people. Eduardo Carranco did not feel comfortable in his advanced placement classes at school. Not because they were difficult, but because he could not relate to the other students in his class. Living in public housing since the age of 12, Eduardo felt the problems his classmates were facing were much different than his own. Daisy Torres always did well in school, and her supportive father told her she would go to college. But not knowing anyone who had actually gone to college, Daisy was intimidated, and not sure how to move forward with the process.
While Alisha, Eduardo, and Daisy’s personal stories are unique, all three are similar in that they could not see a clear path after high school. They were fortunate to connect with EOPS (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services) at Santa Barbara City College, and the opportunity to make a smooth transition to college through the Running Start program. As a summer program, Running Start was opening the door for students to enter higher education while also providing academic, financial, and tutorial support. The program has a zero tolerance policy, and students must be committed to their own advancement. Even with this daunting pre-requisite, more than 400 students submit applications for the 65 available spots each year. “Before Running Start, I would never have thought about college,” said Alisha. “I would have graduated high school and just gotten a full-time job. Running Start made me realize that college was a real option for me, and that I could do it.”
But success rates began to dip drastically as students moved out of the summer session and through the school year on their own. Year-long support became critical, as students needed continued guidance and access to resources in order to thrive. Thanks in part to an initial investment of $150,000 over five years by the Angels (a group of 15 SBCC Foundation donors), Running Start now continues on as the Year-long First Year Experience. “Extending the program throughout the year has really leveled the playing field for students in the Running Start program,” said SBCC Foundation Board Member Kandy Luria-Budgor. “Statistically, if it takes more than three years to complete two years of college, the likelihood that a student will complete at all is very low. If we can get the Running Start students to finish one year in one year, then they are more likely to finish the second year, and have a really good chance of going on to a four-year university.”
Year-long program involvement is crucial because it keeps the lines of communication open between students and EOPS support staff. In addition, Running Start meetings keep students on track, and make them aware of opportunities (such as scholarships) and deadlines, and provide help with homework. A common sentiment among students in the Running Start program is the appreciation for the camaraderie that develops. “The people here have become my family,” said Daisy. “I think I’m here more than I am at home. I feel motivated and pushed to reach my full potential.”
Included with the year-long support is the opportunity to go on college campus site visits. For most of the Running Start students, who never imagined they would set foot on a university campus, and even further from their thinking was actually attending a university, the outings provide an important link of awareness, alleviating the fear of transferring to a four-year institution. “Being in the program year-round, and getting to go on college visits with other Running Start students was important. When I was applying to transfer schools, I knew exactly where I wanted to go because I had seen the schools,” said Alisha. “The campus trips have been really eye opening.”
Alisha, Eduardo, and Daisy are proof that when the right support is available, and you set your mind to something, you can do it. Alisha is set to transfer to the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the summer, and hopes to one day become a college advisor. Eduardo has identified engineering as a professional path, and has recently returned from a study abroad trip to Spain. Daisy is in the process of transferring to a four-year university, and is looking at colleges such as San Francisco State and UC Berkeley.
Author: Jessica Tade