February 20, 2009

‘Advocacy in a Changing World’

is Theme of Next Comienza con un Sueño College Outreach Event for Latino Families

By Michael Dabney

What steps can parents take to become or remain effective advocates for their children’s education, especially in light of today’s financial crisis which seriously threatens state spending on K-12 education and higher education?

This will be the focus of the second annual Comienza con un Sueño (It Begins With a Dream) college outreach conference scheduled Saturday, March 7 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the University of California, San Diego. This free community event aimed at Latino and Mexican American parents, students and families and other interested attendees from San Diego and Imperial counties, provides timely information on college preparation, how to succeed in college, graduate school, and how to prepare for the hot careers of today.

Today’s challenging economic climate will require parents to become even more creative and focused in their efforts to help their children on the road to college, say Comienza’s organizers –hence, the event’s theme this year: “Advocacy in a Changing World.”

The day’s activities will take place on Geisel Library’s upper-level terrace, and at Center Hall.

“Since holding our first Co-mienza event last year which attracted more than 800 parents and students, the demand for this event has grown enormously,” says Rafael Hernandez, director of UCSD’s Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) who is spearheading the coordination of the event with Carri Fierro, director of UCSD’s TRIO Outreach Programs under Student Educational Advancement.

“The interest we are receiving from the community for information about academic preparation services, college retention and post-graduate opportunities is especially great,” adds Hernandez, “which reflects today’s difficult budgetary times in which many fear higher education is becoming out of reach for their children.”

Says Fierro: “The goal of this year’s conference is to help participants – through the impressive group of leaders and professionals we have gathered from the community, schools and higher education — understand the current state of affairs in higher education and to guide them toward options available to them and their children.“

This includes, she says, giving parents and students the tools they need to be better advocates toward college admission, to learn and apply college survival skills, and to also build a long-term goal for professional and graduate school education.

The planning of Comienza represents a collaboration between UCSD and a host of community partners. This year’s event will feature individual sessions for students and parents, in addition to bilingual workshops on finding money for college, discussing and demystifying the obstacles that hinder Latinos and Chicanos from attending college, help with the college application process, advice on succeeding in college and graduate school, and how parents can be strong advocates for their children’s education.

A hearty Mexican-style breakfast as well as Latino music and dancing will add a genuine cultural flair to the day.

Comienza is a collaboration between UC San Diego’s Office of the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment, and Teaching Excellence (CREATE), Chicano/a-Latino/a Arts & Humanities Minor (CLAH), TRiO Outreach Programs, Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP), Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services (OASIS), Academic Enrichment Programs (AEP), Student Educational Advancement (SEA), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlán (MEChA), Black Student Union (BSU), Chicano/Latino Staff Association, SPACES, Cross-Cultural Center, Chicano /Latino Alumni Association, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE); the Price Charities; the Parent Institute for Educational Equity; Fidelity/ScholarShare; GEAR UP; the Lemon Grove School District; the San Diego Unified School District; and the San Diego County Office of Education.

This event evolved from the success of other major UCSD-sponsored outreach events to underrepresented populations. These include the Dare to Dream College event (held for the second time last November for the African American community), and I’m Going to College (held for the American Indian reservation communities). Both are annual events.

For more information on Comienza and to register online, click here or contact Joe Topete at UCSD Early Academic Outreach Program, jatopete@ucsd.edu, (858) 822-3772.

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