Catching a glimpse of college life 

Jasmin Valdez is in sixth grade and already she’s starting to prepare for college.

Her reason is clear: Valdez wants to have a career that she likes, and one that involves working with children, she said.

“I want to grow up to be a good person,” said Valdez, who would be the first in her family to go to college.

The James Lick Middle School student got a taste of college life Tuesday afternoon during the California State University “Road to College” event, which makes stops at schools throughout the state to talk to kids about what they need to do in order to go to college.

The campaign started in Southern California, making stops at schools in Bakersfield before working its way north to Monterey Bay and now San Francisco.

The tour includes a bus with an interior designed to look like a typical college dorm. After experiencing college life inside the bus, students learned about financial aid, campus life and career opportunities. The statewide campaign is meant to help underserved students begin working toward the goal of going to college.  

“It’s going to reach thousands and thousands of middle school students and get them on the right track to go to college and understand what courses they need so they can be prepared to go to college,” said Charles B. Reed, chancellor of the California State University system.

Part of the problem is that as many as 50 percent of high school graduates don’t have the right courses they need in order to be admitted to a state school, said Carlos Garcia, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

But that’s going to change starting this fall, he said. Part of the high school curriculum will now ensure students are taking all the courses they need to get into college, including San Francisco State University, Garcia said.

“They were graduating, but they couldn’t get into the UC system, and it’s in our backyard,” Garcia said. “We realized we have to have everyone start taking the right courses. That will change the face of our system.”

The college event goes hand-in-hand with Mayor Gavin Newsom’s 2-year-old San Francisco Promise program, which guarantees all sixth-graders who graduate from a high school in San Francisco Unified School District admission to San Francisco State. Mentors go to campuses and guide students, helping them with basic preparation for college, including taking the right courses and making the grades they need. So far, San Francisco Promise has worked with more than 14,000 students, according to the Mayor’s Office.

“It’s about where you are going, not if you are going,” said Hydra Mendoza, Newsom’s education adviser. “So many of them don’t realize it’s an opportunity.”

Tour of higher education

The “Road to College” bus tour offers middle school students across California a road map to reaching college.

  • Students will participate in an interactive, hands-on experience on the bus, working on MacBooks to explore such items as career interests, majors and courses of study at CSU campuses.
  • Students will be given financial aid and scholarship information.
  • Students will learn the importance of early preparation for college, including the required coursework and rigor needed to enter and succeed in the CSU system.
  • CSU student volunteers will be on hand at each location to serve as ambassadors and assist students with questions and information.


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