GEAR UP Schools Honored at Schools To Watch

sunnymead STW

13 high performing schools were honored at the annual Schools to Watch Luncheon in Sacramento, two of which were California GEAR UP Vista Heights Middle School and Sunnymead Middle School.

To earn this designation, schools must complete an extensive application that is reviewed by middle grades experts. In order to retain the designation, each school is re-evaluated every three years. Schools must show they are academically excellent — these schools challenge all students to use their minds well. They are developmentally responsive — these schools are sensitive to the unique developmental challenges of early adolescence. They are socially equitable — these schools are democratic and fair, providing every student with high-quality teachers, resources, and supports.

“It’s significant that more than a third of the new honorees are from Riverside and San Bernardino counties” said Irvin Howard, co-director of Schools to Watch and a longtime educator specializing in the middle grades.

Besides Sunnymead, other Inland winners are Vista Heights Middle School in Moreno Valley (a California GEAR UP School), San Gorgonio Middle School in Beaumont, Curtis Middle School in San Bernardino and Serrano Middle School in Highland.

Having worked with these two schools for five years and seen the staff’s commitment to building a college going culture, I am gratified to see the recognition of  this effort rewarded. -Jon Sides, California GEAR UP Whole School Services Coach.

“What it shows is there are finally some schools in the Inland Empire that are making the cut,” said Howard, a professor emeritus of education at Cal State San Bernardino. “A lot of these schools that have made it have known about the criteria and have been working on it for a few years. We can’t just focus on academics,” he said. “We have to focus on the whole child.”

Since 2001, California GEAR UP has served as a member of the California Middle Grades Alliance (CMGA), a collaborative partnership of 10 organizations in support of high quality middle grades education.  The Schools to Watch program provides the opportunity to recognize and honor the outstanding work of schools and districts throughout California.  These Moreno Valley GEAR UP schools join the class of 2016 Schools to Watch that promote academic excellence and social equity for ALL students.    -Shelley Davis, Director California GEAR UP

The winning schools are meeting the challenge by putting kids on teams in which counselors and teachers help them with classes as well as family and personal issues.




Sparks Career Day Is College Culture

As part of the California GEAR UP grant, Sparks Middle School proudly hosted its annual Career Day on January 15th, 2016 with 20 different presenters. Some of the presenters were Sparks alumni and included police, chiropractors, NFL players, accountants, engineers, and EMT’s. Serving over 475 students, every 7th and 8th grader heard four different presenters share about their careers and professions. As part of Sparks College Campaign, they want all students to “Own Their Future.” All students are encouraged to “Dress for Success” wearing ties, slacks, dresses, and other nice clothing. A tie station was set up in the morning with ties that have been donated, giving students the option to wear and keep a tie of their choice.

Sparks truly is a special place.  Our staff members share the belief that “success is the only option” for all students.  Our initiatives focus on the student both academically and socially.  Our programs encourage students to grow as individuals as well as to further develop life skills through collaboration.  Since becoming a California GEAR UP middle school, we have transformed dreams into attainable goals, ideas into action, and created hands on experiences for our students and parents to better understand college and career pathways.  We continue to build relationships with our parents as partners encouraging them to be a part of programs including PIQE, Kindle Family Literacy, and our Cooking class.  Within the last 4 years, over 400 parents have graduated from PIQE, twelve $2,000 California GEAR UP Education Trust Awards have been given out, and our LEAD (Life Experiences About Democracy) program earned a Civic Learning Award.  We look forward to what our future holds.

-Collin Miller, Sparks Middle School Principal

During the workshops, students took notes, asked questions, and reflected on their experiences. The presenters came from all different backgrounds and professions with a clear message that with hard work, determination, and motivation, all students can follow their dreams by setting goals and having a positive attitude. Students were encouraged to continue pursuing their interests with the help of all Sparks Spartan staff. Closure to the day included an assembly that highlights “Success Is the Only Option” for all students and that planning for their future starts now. District and city officials were the honored guests at this event and had an opportunity to see the day in action.

With a continued focus of enhancing school culture, Sparks is completing another year with the California GEAR UP grant. As one of the few schools in the state selected for this program, benefits have included a parent program called PIQE (98 parent graduates last year), a full time Whole School Services Coach, professional development opportunities, and additional college resources and programs, and 5 student awards being offered in the amount of $2,000 each last year.

Sparks has made a huge shift in their college going culture in their collaboration with GEAR UP. Sparks staff have organized themselves through their leadership team to continuously conduct a critical analysis of Sparks’ strengths and weaknesses that is open and honest with a look towards equity and providing high quality education for ALL students.  Sparks is also looking towards the future, both at their own growth and the growth of their community.  By visiting other schools and offering their own school site as a model, Sparks seeks not only to learn and implement best practices, but also to share their lessons learned with other struggling communities.  Sparks has created a college-going ecosystem that transcends their school boundaries and I believe they will be able to sustain the gains they have made through GEAR UP into the far future.

–Karla Lagunas-GEAR  UP Whole School Services Coach.

Additional College Campaign highlights include every classroom adopting a college, college spirit days every Thursday, and a college awareness campaign promoted in the cafeteria. For more information please visit our website

For mor information on California GEAR UP school success stories, visit

Career and Technical Education: Does It Improve Student Outcomes?

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Fordham’s latest study, by the University of Connecticut’s Shaun M. Dougherty, uses data from Arkansas to explore whether students benefit from CTE coursework—and, more specifically, from focused sequences of CTE courses aligned to certain industries. The study also describes the current landscape, including which students are taking CTE courses, how many courses they’re taking, and which ones.

Key findings include:

  • Students with greater exposure to CTE are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in a two-year college, be employed, and earn higher wages.
  • CTE is not a path away from college: Students taking more CTE classes are just as likely to pursue a four-year degree as their peers.
  • Students who focus their CTE coursework are more likely to graduate high school by twenty-one percentage points compared to otherwise similar students (and they see a positive impact on other outcomes as well).
  • CTE provides the greatest boost to the kids who need it most—boys, and students from low-income families.

Due to many decades of neglect and stigma against old-school “vo-tech,” high-quality CTE is not a meaningful part of the high school experience of millions of American students. It’s time to change that.


(04.05 - Final) CTE Information Graphic (900px)

Data for the People Build Community Power


This repost is courtesy from Education Week.

(Editor’s note: The announcement that Education Trust-West and a number of civil rights and community organizations were founding a data hub in San Bernardino County, struck me as an important opportunity to increase the capacity for community voice in the California Local Control Funding Formula process.  Here, Ryan Smith, the organization’s executive director, expands on the value of getting actionable information to the people.)

By Ryan Smith

Recently, during a policy briefing in the Central Valley, a community leader asked if she could comment by telling a story.  She spoke of a small cadre of mapmakers from up north that would spend time making maps for communities with no input from the people who lived there.  Townspeople would openly complain: the map didn’t reflect the ground they knew—they had missed rivers, peaks, and other valuable landmarks in the community.  The mapmakers came back and told them “Our maps are right, it’s your ground that’s wrong.”

Point taken. Today, well-intentioned education policies still feel as if they’re being done to and not with communities.  Laws that start off as puddles in Sacramento can come down like waves to school communities, particularly communities of color.

LCFF Provides Unique Opportunity

The time is ripe to invest in bottom-up policymaking.  California’s move to the Local Control Funding Formula and the current redesign of our state accountability system provide a unique opportunity to accelerate meaningful engagement of educators, students, parents and community members.

Thumbnail image for SB Data Hub.jpgFurthermore, the recently-passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires robust information be publicly available and disaggregated by subgroups.  ESSA also calls for college enrollment data and any other available data deemed helpful to parents to be included on school report cards.  This information can shine a brighter light on student outcomes and empower families in their education decision-making.

However, ESSA is a vehicle for empowerment—but it doesn’t drive itself.  For local control to move past lip service, stakeholders must fully understand complex data, research, budgets, and policy and use this knowledge to make informed decisions.  Without an intentional focus and resources dedicated to data readiness, these efforts to meaningfully engage communities feel more like empty promises.

Bring Data To The People

Building community understanding of data utilization can start to bridge the gap.  When data are effectively understood and used locally, there are long-term benefits for transparency, efficiency, system performance, and student outcomes.  Although we’ve made progress making education data readily available, we’ve never done a decent job of helping education stakeholders actively use data to inform decision-making.  Stakeholders are too often forced to make decisions based on anecdotes, because they do not have access to high-quality, accessible information.

It’s time to finally bring data to the people.

This means the state must develop data systems that are cultivated with consideration for the community members who need this information.  California can’t afford to simply warehouse data in confusing and cumbersome ways.  Even as the use of technology increases, a vast digital divide exists in low-income communities and communities of color.  We have to meet communities where they are through the use of tools designed to develop community members’ awareness of how this information connects to their daily experiences.

The right data matter as well. When it comes to school and district performance, we must resist the urge to artlessly data dump and call it a day.  Transparency is not providing teachers a one hundred page data binder or creating data dashboards that drown parents in fifty indicators of success.  The state has an obligation to provide the right, digestible data including summary measures that don’t mask how students achieve.  Let’s stay away from the dark ages when California’s accountability system painted a pretty picture that covered up distressing disparities in schools and districts failing our most forgotten students.

Invest in Community-Based Expertise

We must also partner with organizations that have a track record of authentically partnering with community members.  Groups like Californians for Justice, P.I.C.O., the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, and Californians Together work directly with students, parents, and community members to comprehend how to use data to hold schools accountable for success.  We’ve spent $40 million to get County Offices of Education up to speed on supporting LCFF.  Similarly, let’s invest in the groups with this type of community-based expertise rather than recreating the wheel.

We have to equip those on the frontline with more tools. Recently Ed Trust-West partnered with a number of advocacy and education organizations in San Bernardino to open a community-based data and research hub that will serve as a catalyst to build knowledge around budgets, data, and policy at the local level.  Our first step is facilitating data equity walks, a program designed to understand the disparities in the data we see in low-income communities and communities of color.

Let’s work toward democratizing data.  Measuring and understanding success in education is critical to all stakeholders.  Making sense of education information for the average citizen is big data’s last frontier. It’s time for policymakers to embrace the challenge and make sure that a system showing data of the people is also for the people.  The mapmakers who visited the Central Valley weren’t wrong to make maps—they just started and ended with their own view of the world.  Whether data comes in the form of a map or a pie chart, ignoring the local geography gets us nowhere.



2016 ‘Schools to Watch’ Model Middle Schools


State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Congratulates California’s
2016 “Schools to Watch™—Taking Center Stage” Model Middle Schools

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that 13 high-performing California middle schools have been newly designated as model middle grades schools in the 2015–16 Schools to Watch™—Taking Center Stage (STW™—TCS) program.

Torlakson also announced that the sustained progress of 20 previously chosen STW™—TCS schools will allow them to retain their designation.

“These 33 schools excel at keeping students engaged and motivated during this critical juncture in a student’s school career,” Torlakson said. “I congratulate them for their efforts to exceed challenging goals, narrow the achievement gap, and set their students on a solid path toward high school and future success.”

The 13 newly designated STW™—TCS model middle grades schools are:

  • Alder Creek Middle School, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, Nevada County
  • Curtis Middle School, San Bernardino Unified School District, San Bernardino County
  • Firebaugh Middle School, Firebaugh Las Deltas Unified School District, Fresno County
  • Lake Center Middle School, Little Lake City School District, Los Angeles County
  • Lindero Canyon Middle School, Las Virgenes Unified School District, Ventura County
  • Ross Academy of Creative and Media Arts, ABC Unified School District, Los Angeles County
  • San Gorgonio Middle School, Beaumont Unified School District, Riverside County
  • Serrano Middle School, San Bernardino Unified School District, San Bernardino County
  • South Pointe Middle School, Walnut Valley Unified School District, Los Angeles County
  • Sunnymead Middle School, Moreno Valley Unified School District, Riverside County
  • Vista Heights Middle School, Moreno Valley Unified School District, Riverside County
  • Willis Jepson Middle School, Vacaville Unified School District, Solano County
  • Yorba Linda Middle School, Placentia Yorba Linda Unified School District, Orange County

The 20 re-designated STW™—TCS model middle grades schools are:

  • Canyon Middle School, Castro Valley Unified High School District, Alameda County
  • Edna Hill Middle School, Brentwood Union Elementary School District, Contra Costa County
  • Fairmont School, Sanger Unified School District, Fresno County
  • Frank J. Zamboni Middle School, Paramount Unified School District, Los Angeles County
  • Frank Wright Middle School, Imperial Unified School District, Imperial County
  • Granger Junior High School, Sweetwater Union High School District, San Diego County
  • John Glenn Middle School of International Studies, Desert Sands Unified School District, Riverside County
  • Mistletoe Elementary School, Enterprise Elementary School District, Shasta County
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes Middle School, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County
  • Pioneer Middle School, Tustin Unified School District, Orange County
  • Quail Lake Environmental Charter School, Sanger Unified School District, Fresno County
  • Reyburn Intermediary School, Clovis Unified School District, Fresno County
  • Sanger Academy, Sanger Unified School District, Fresno County
  • San Lorenzo Valley Middle School, San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District, Santa Cruz County
  • Scotts Valley Middle School, Scotts Valley Unified School District, Santa Cruz County
  • Sinaloa Middle School, Simi Valley Unified School District, Ventura County
  • Summit Intermediate School, Etiwanda School District, San Bernardino County
  • Thurston Middle School, Laguna Beach Unified School District, Orange County
  • Union Middle School, Union School District, Santa Clara County
  • Vanguard Preparatory School, Apple Valley Unified School District, San Bernardino County

STW™—TCS middle grades schools are high-performing model schools that demonstrate academic excellence, responsiveness to the needs of young adolescents, and social equity. These schools host visitors from California and around the world who are looking to learn practices they can use to improve their middle grades schools and close the achievement gap.

The STW™—TCS program is sponsored by the California League of Middle Schools (CLMS) External link opens in new window or tab. and the California Department of Education, in partnership with the California Middle Grades Alliance.

To earn this designation, schools must complete an extensive application that is reviewed by middle grades experts. In order to retain the designation, each school is re-evaluated every three years.

All of the schools will be recognized in Sacramento at the California Middle Grades Alliance annual luncheon February 25, 2016, and during the California League of Schools’ Annual Conference North, February 26–28, 2016.

For more information about the STW™—TCS program, please visit the CLMS High Performing Middle School Models External link opens in new window or tab.Web page.

# # # #

Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5206, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Monday, February 8, 2016

GEAR UP Education Trust Award Success Story: Angela Sanchez

Angela Sanchez Profile

Angela is now a Program Analyst, College Readiness & Retention for the ECMC Foundation in Los Angeles.

Angela wasn’t even sure she was going to finish high school. Today, she is an undergrad and grad degree holder from her dream school (UCLA), a successful higher education professional, and is an inspiring example of focusing on college dreams early on.

Sanchez says that, without scholarship support, her life today would have been very different. The first scholarship she ever received was a GEAR UP Education Trust Award as a student at Toll Middle School in Glendale, CA, a California GEAR UP school.

Back in 2005, when she received the award, she already knew she was going to college but wasn’t sure how she was going to afford it. This award opened her eyes to the world of scholarships and financial aid, a pathway she followed successfully and is a debt free graduate degree holder as a result.

“An investment in a student is something that pays tenfold,” said Sanchez, a UCLA Alumni Scholar who has earned numerous other scholarships and awards for research, academic excellence and community service, including the Chancellor’s Service Award, the UCLA Distinguished Senior Award, the Carey McWilliams Award for Scholarly Distinction and a Strauss Foundation Scholarship, to name a few. Angela says “There is no greater gift than education.”

We asked Angela for some advice for our GEAR UP schools and teachers regarding best practices for supporting and inspiring students like her.  Of course her perspective was perfect:

Middle school students are at a tipping point age because high school is too late to start thinking about college. The key is to establish a college-going culture in middle school, and saturate every aspect of the student experience with future goals and college information. Saturation is key: college pennants, college fairs, anything that leads to conversations with students about college‘. You have to incubate early, make that connection early.

When Angela was in middle school she was vaguely aware her school was a GEAR UP school, but it was not until her social studies teacher Dr. Vandermey encouraged her to apply did she realize the opportunity GEAR UP affords. Upon receiving the notification that she was a recipient of the $2000 California GEAR UP Education Trust Award, she couldn’t believe it. The path to college had begun.

Angela talks about how her teachers had an impact on her future.

My geometry classroom had A-G requirements displayed prominently. That daily reminder contributed to the immersive college going environment that became normal for me. This should be normal for all students in middle school, especially for first generation students like me.

Angela strongly believes in building the relationship between student and teachers and breaking down walls that can remain throughout a students academic experience.

Teachers and students have to relate, teachers should give students the ability to build meaningful relationships so they can talk about things other than the lesson plan. Students don’t always have people at home that can support them in the same way as teachers are a tremendous college resource. If students don’t have a positive experience with their middle school its teachers early on, they are less likely to break down those walls later in their academic career, such as going to professors office hours, and potentially missing out on a successful college experience.

In November of 2007, Angela was coping with the reality that she and her father were homeless after being evicted from their Glendale home on her 17th birthday. Angela never wavered in her desire to do her very best in and out of school and to remain optimistic. That life lesson is one that Angela now shares with students who are experiencing homelessness.

“Education has always been important to me because it represented a springboard out of my current situation,” said Sanchez, who eventually completed high school with a 4.23 GPA despite not having stable housing between 2007-2009, she was accepted to eight colleges and universities in 2009. Her first choice was UCLA.

Angela graduated debt-free, and attributes that to her focus on finding scholarships and financial aid wherever she could. Being an outstanding student certainly helped her achieve competitive scholarships and grants, she attributes her awareness of how to find the awards to her early successes an ETA recipient. According to Angela “it opened an entire world to me”.

She used the ETA money for tuition, but says that one of the great benefits to this GEAR UP award was the flexibility of what the funds could be used for. Most grants and scholarships have a very narrow use, but the Education Trust Award funds helped her create a strategy to fully fund her education without gaps.

“Youths, no matter what their financial situation or living condition, need to see that they are entitled to quality postsecondary education as much as anyone.” said Angela.

“I really enjoy advocating for education and being a voice for students who are normally overlooked,” said Angela. She now shares a home with her father in Highland Park in northeast Los Angeles and plans to pursue an advanced degree in the future.

Angela was my delightful  luncheon companion at a major event in Los Angeles for Latino students and their families.  The subject of GEAR UP arose and Angela indicated that it had supported her financially in receiving her baccalaureate from UCLA.  When I inquired I learned that, in fact, Angela had been the recipient of an Education Trust Award from the California GEAR UP Program back in 2005.  She, along with over 5,000 of her counterparts, have, or are, achieving their higher educational goals through their participation as middle school students in the California GEAR UP Program.  Congratulations to Angela and all the other Education Trust Award members.

-Penny Edgert, Executive Director, California GEAR UP/ICC

“For students who come from backgrounds such as my own, who are often disadvantaged, underprivileged and overlooked, I’d like to see not only their acceptance, but their retention at universities,” she said.

She hopes this journey starts in middle school just like it did for her.

Angela was featured in the “Let There Be” UCLA centennial campaign.

Angela established the first university faction of the nonprofit ‘School on Wheels’ at UCLA, assisting K-12 homeless students with tutors and in navigating postsecondary education. Ms. Sanchez has created college admissions and financial aid workshops tailored to the students’ needs. In addition, she’s a recruitment, student training, donor and community relations, and development volunteer. She continues her work for student advocacy at ECMC Foundation, college access and student retention.

For more information on the California GEAR UP Education Trust Awards, please visit our website.

EdTrust West: New Community-Based Data & Research Hub in San Bernardino County


Ed Trust–West is excited to announce that we’re partnering with a number of civil rights, education, and social justice organizations to launch our first Community-Based Data & Research Hub in San Bernardino County. California’s move toward local control, the redesign of our state’s accountability system, and the implementation of the California State Standards provide a unique opportunity to help increase capacity of community stakeholders and support their current advocacy efforts through data, research, budget and policy analysis.

“In the age of local control, we must help communities make certain that local systems do what’s best for California’s Black, Brown, and poor students,” said Ed Trust–West Executive Director Ryan Smith. “We must commit more support and resources to those on the front lines – community-based organizations, parents, teachers, and students – to realize the true vision of equity for all students. The San Bernardino Hub serves as an important first step to achieve more meaningful and effective local decision making.”

To support existing efforts throughout the state, Ed Trust–West will first focus on San Bernardino County, collaborating with community-based organizations to create data and research tools that bolster existing advocacy efforts. This project would not be possible without our partners – a big thank you to Congregations Organized for Prophet Engagement (COPE), Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC), ACLU of Southern California, Youth Action Project, Inc. (YAP), BLU Educational Foundation, San Bernardino Branch NAACP, LULAC of the Inland Empire, DELAC of San Bernardino City USD, San Bernardino City USD African American Advisory Council, and the Latino Education & Advocacy Days (LEAD) Organization

“We are thrilled to work with our partners and The Education Trust–West as they reinforce our community efforts for San Bernardino’s low-income students and students of color. This Hub will be a powerful tool in engaging decision makers and strengthening our work serving students and the broader community,” said Reverend J. Samuel Casey, Executive Director of COPE.

Last week, Ed Trust–West kicked off this collaboration by providing a Data Equity Walk and presentation on the state of educational equity in San Bernardino, hosted by the LEAD Program at CSU San Bernardino. Check out pictures here.

We are also excited to announce that Marcelino “Mars” Serna, an Inland Empire native, will serve as Ed Trust–West’s Southern California Regional Manager supporting this hub. Mr. Serna most recently served as the Coordinator of Family and Community Engagement for Fontana Unified School District. He has over 29 years’ experience working in the public sector. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration from California State University, San Bernardino and his Master’s Degree from University of Redlands in Management.

View full presentation here. 


‘DREAM loan’ funds college for unauthorized immigrants


Officials at California’s four-year public universities are reaching out to an estimated 10,000 undergraduate students who might qualify for a special loan aimed at reducing their tuition — a program that further distinguishes the state as a national trendsetter in providing services to unauthorized immigrants.

The California DREAM low-interest loans are designated for unauthorized immigrant students enrolled at University of California or California State University campuses. The program was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014, but funding didn’t become available until now.

It’s the latest in a series of measures that the Democratic-controlled Legislature and Brown have approved in their push to help unauthorized immigrants integrate into mainstream society.

They have ushered through legislation that enables this population of Californians to obtain driver licenses, eliminates the word “alien” when describing unauthorized immigrants in the state labor code and expands access to health care for children of such parents.

Critics said these actions only spur more illegal immigration, hurt law-abiding taxpayers and reward individuals who should not be granted any privileges because they have violated this country’s rules.

The California DREAM loan program’s initial $7 million allotment — $5 million for the UC and $2 million for CSU — will be distributed to eligible applicants in the following weeks. The state provided half of the sum and the two university systems covered the other half. The loans are for the 2015-16 academic year, and they’re retroactive to last fall.

The UC system will divide the $5 million among its nine undergraduate campuses, with the amount for each school based on the number of qualified students there, UC spokeswoman Claire Doan said.

She estimates that UC San Diego has about 200 unauthorized immigrant students.

The Cal State system will take a similar approach with its campuses, which include San Diego State University and Cal State San Marcos. About 250 students at Cal State San Marcos are eligible for the loan, according to a spokeswoman for the school.

Each qualified student can borrow up to $4,000 for this academic year at an interest rate of 4.29 percent. Once they graduate, borrowers must begin repaying their loan after a six-month grace period.

Future funding is contingent on money being available from the state budget, according to school administrators.

Supporters of the loan program said it could erase significant financial barriers for unauthorized immigrant students, who cannot receive federal grants or federally subsidized loans.

“It helps alleviate the burden for undocumented students, many of whom are often forced to take quarters/semesters off or take on outside jobs to offset the cost of tuition,” Doan said.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara, creator of the California DREAM loan program through Senate Bill 1210, said: “I’m very proud of the fact that California has always led when it comes to providing much-needed resources for our undocumented student population — understanding that they are here, that this is their home and that many of them were brought here not out of their own volition.”

Lara, D-Bell Gardens, has helped advance immigration-related legislation for several years, including passage of Assembly Bill 540. That law allows non-resident college students who meet specific requirements, including unauthorized immigrants, to pay in-state tuition and fees instead of the far-higher expenses for out-of-state students.

Students who fall within the parameters of AB 540 are eligible for the California DREAM loan program.

Opponents of the program said it wrongfully rewards people who shouldn’t be in the United States in the first place.

Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform in Washington, D.C., said the program’s funding should instead be used to help law-abiding families in financial need.

“There are a lot of people in California who are struggling. Their kids want a good education. Even with the availability of federal loans, it doesn’t come close to meeting the needs of these many families,” he said.

Robin Hvidston, executive director of the Claremont-based group We the People Rising, said public money is being abused.

“These taxpayer-funded loans should be available to veterans who have served this nation. Why not aim this program to specifically help American foster care children? This is discrimination against U.S. citizens who are not able to partake in the program,” Hvidston said.

At least 18 states have policies that permit unauthorized immigrant students to pay in-state tuition rates, according to an October report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Sixteen of those states, including California, have done so through legislation.

In addition, California is one of five states that allow such students to receive state grants for higher education, the legislatures group said.

It’s unclear whether any other state besides California has a higher-education loan program for unauthorized immigrants.

Zenén Jaimes Pérez, policy analyst for United We Dream, the country’s largest immigrant youth-led organization, said California has set a national precedent in establishing rights for unauthorized immigrants.

“When I travel to other states, a lot of folks are wondering, ‘How do we get to where California is?’” he said.

The movement supporting “DREAMers,” as youths living in the U.S. illegally are often called, took off more than a decade ago and has grown to become a focal point of the immigration debate.

They’re currently part of the spotlight on a case involving the U.S. Supreme Court, which is preparing to review an injunction blocking President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration. That measure would provide a temporary waiver from deportation for up to 5 million unauthorized immigrants and expand a program that granted various rights to “DREAMers.”


Article originally found in the San Diego Union-Tribune

GEAR UP Leadership Day in North State is a Hit


(original article appears in the Red Bluff Daily News)

Corning, CA. Nearly 800 Tehama County eighth-graders were invited Thursday to join the third annual Leadership Day at the Rolling Hills Casino event center, with five local schools participating.

This seven-day college preparation workshop event, put on by the Tehama County Department of Education, California GEAR UP — Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs — Tehama County high schools and College Options, has continued to engage students with workshops to help guide them through the next four years and beyond.

The Rolling Hills Casino Foundation and Expect More Tehama were two groups that made the Leadership Day a possibility, said Karissa Morehouse, who is Education Talent Search director of Tehama County and with College Options

The schools that participated Thursday were Richfield School, Tehama eLearning Academy, Lincoln Street Independent School, Reeds Creek School and Vina School.

A few Mercy High School students participated as well by talking with the eighth-graders and sharing their own insights and experiences to help the students with the transition to high school, Morehouse said.

One workshop, the true colors personality assessment, had students choosing a particular card with a picture and a photograph that best suits their personality traits. The students were able to share what makes them unique and discuss that with a group of other students, Morehouse said.

Learning all the classes needed to prepare for college was another workshop that provide the students with a beaded key chain to remind the students of the core A-G classes needed.

Another workshop helped students identify what they are doing now to prepare for college with a bingo game.

The goal of the workshop was to show how the items on the bingo sheet can be attributes the students can continue to strengthen for the preparation of college.

One student said he gained a better understanding of what to expect in high school and how to prepare for college, his adulthood and his future careers. His favorite subject is math and he hopes to graduate high school near the top of his class.

At the end of Leadership Day the students got together and wrote their goals on a paper that was shaped in a thought bubble. The students will keep one with them to remind themselves of those goals and the other will be given to their teachers for them to understand the goals of their students, Morehouse said.

On the wall behind the workshop groups where quotes from celebrities showing how far you can go with positivity and urging that with the right resources you can be successful in anything you want.