By Pablo Jaime Sainz
A non-profit that encourages students to excel in their education is celebrating its first decade with a noble goal: To get 100 kids from Barrio Logan to attend college in the next 10 years.
So far, the Barrio Logan College Institute has helped 21 students from disadvantaged backgrounds reach that goal. Six more students will continue on into higher education in the next year.
The 100-student goal is part of BLCI’s strategic plan that was presented to community members, supporters, parents, and students in the institute’s 10-year anniversary Open House, that took place on Thursday, November 15.
At the event, which was attended by about 150 people, BLCI staff highlighted some of the achievements the program has made since it was founded in 1996, while mapping the road for the next decade.
“It was an opportunity to honor the hard work of our students and their families,” said Diana Getrich Villegas, BLCI executive director. “It was also a chance to invite new people in the community to get involved. They were able to see the type of success we have.”
Among the attendees were several of the donors who have made BLCI a reality. BLCI honorary board member and National City councilmember Luis Natividad was also present.
The institute mostly depends on contributions and donations to raise its $420,000 annual budget. It covers salaries for five full-time employees as well as for the many programs it has, such as field trips, tutoring, and workshops.
Students can join the program starting in third grade until they graduate from high school.
“That costs a lot of money,” Getrich Villegas said.
Money has been a challenge for BLCI since it was created a decade ago.
It began as a program for elementary students only, but as the needs of the Barrio Logan community continued to grow, the program expanded to include middle school students in 1999, and high school students in 2001.
Because of budget problems, BLCI was almost forced to close in late 2001.
“It hasn’t been the easiest road,” Getrich Villegas said. “But the bright side is that we’re still here.”
She said that an important part of the success of the program is that parents are encouraged to get involved. Once their children are accepted into the program, instead of paying tuition, parents are required to volunteer 30 hours a year.
This can include serving as chaperones in field trips, supervising in the institute’s facilities, participating in parenting workshops.
“The goal is to get them involved in their children’s education,” Getrich Villegas said.
In the last year, BLCI has had the support from the Americorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) program. Two volunteers will be finishing their year-long service at BLCI this month and in December.
“It’s important to recognize their service,” Getrich Villegas said.
Among BLCI student success stories are Jose Vallejo, who graduated from the program in 2004 and is now majoring in Economics at Yale University, and Bernice Ramirez, BLCI 2005 alumna and a student at the University of Virginia.
“We’re building for the future,” Getrich Villegas said.
For more information on the free Barrio Logan College Institute programs, you can call (619) 232-4686 or visit www.blci.org.