College and public school leaders in the Santa Ana area are signing a pledge Friday to create an unprecedented program that guides students from elementary school to college, putting a college diploma in every Santa Ana home in nine years.
For a decade the Santa Ana Unified School District has tried to instill college-bound hopes in its youngest students, says superintendent Jane Russo.
"We have an activity that starts in kindergarten called Kinder Caminata, where we bring our kids together over at Santa Ana College and they learn about college at that time."
Now, the school district’s upped the ante. Next fall sixth graders will sign a pledge to go to college.
It’s part of a new initiative called “Adelante” – “forward” in Spanish – between Santa Ana Unified, Santa Ana College and Cal State Fullerton. The goal is to increase college entrance rates in the 56,000-student, mostly Latino school district.
Santa Ana Unified pledges to offer students college admission counseling and to track their grades and classes for college admission.
If they maintain good grades, Santa Ana College pledges to pay 100 percent of their tuition and guide them into Cal State Fullerton, says Santa Ana College president Erlinda Martinez. "This will include library privileges so they can start using the library at Cal State Fullerton. Cal State Fullerton has also committed to meeting with these students on an annual basis."
If students in this program meet admission requirements, Cal State Fullerton promises a seat and academic support. The Adelante program is unique, says Stanford education researcher Anthony Lising Antonio, because three institutions have promised to address Latinos’ low academic achievement.
"Community college because of its local nature, because of its affordability, because of its flexibility, is the primary entry point for Latino students."
He says what’s good for Latinos is good for California, especially in education, because half the students in public schools are Latino. Most of them attend schools in urban, working-class neighborhoods where college admission is the exception, not the norm.