Getting SFUSD students to college 

When Tanya, a senior at the Academy of Arts and Sciences, started high school, she met with a volunteer counselor from the Bar Association who sat down with her to map out her entire high school career. Because of this, Tanya knew exactly what she needed to do to get to college.

In her freshman year, she took a college and career class as part of the graduation requirements. She found out things she didn’t know about herself — like that she enjoyed science, but didn’t like the office-type environment.

In a few months, Tanya is heading to Humboldt State University to study environmental engineering.

Seniors I talk to share similar stories of people and programs in San Francisco Unified School District schools that have helped them understand their interests and skills, what they would like to pursue after high school graduation, and the steps they need to take to get there.

In fact, counselors, parents, teachers and multiple community organizations support students all year long to prepare for — and make the transition to — college or a career after high school. And when a student falls behind in school and is at risk of not making it to high school graduation, our counselors meet with them to make sure they have plans for how to get back on track for graduation, including ways they can recover credits if they’ve fallen behind.

For youths growing up in households with parents who didn’t attend college or whose families struggle financially, going to college may have been something they hadn’t considered attainable until a caring adult showed them they could and helped them build a plan.

There is a lot that has happened over just the past five years to ensure even more students have the opportunity to go to college or vocational schools that will enable them to pursue meaningful careers of their choosing:

  • In 2008, the school board passed a policy to ensure that, starting with the graduating class of 2014, every senior will have had the opportunity to complete the prerequisite coursework to attend a California State University school.
  • Around the same time, The City, the SFUSD and community organizations teamed up to form Bridge to Success, an initiative that has brought about more effective programs and greater coordination between all of the institutions working to help our kids get into college.
  • Thanks to a program started by the city treasurer and Citibank called Kindergarten to College, every student entering kindergarten in the SFUSD gets a college savings account opened in his or her name with an initial deposit of $50.
  • And the college and career class that Tanya benefited from has gotten even better. Every ninth-grade student, as part of our graduation requirements, now takes a mandatory course called Plan Ahead, which has interactive, technology-rich curriculum created with support from the Gap Foundation and Pearson, a top learning company.

From UC Berkeley to New York University to City College of San Francisco, the list of schools our seniors plan to attend in the fall runs long. Along with college acceptance letters, our students are getting news about financial aid and scholarships, many of which are provided by San Francisco citizens dedicated to helping our city’s youths realize their potential.

In the SFUSD, our college-bound rates are high and San Francisco’s robust support for its youth continues to grow.

Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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