More than 100 ninth- and 10th-graders from Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnets, a trio of high schools located near Los Angeles International Airport, gathered today at their schools' social hall, eager to hear from and ask questions of UCLA officials about what it takes to get into college.
With a combined student body of 1,300 — nearly 74 percent of whom are African-American — the Westchester schools were visited by UCLA officials who were there to deliver a simple message: UCLA and the University of California want you.
The visit was part of Achieve UC, a systemwide effort to reach out to more than 10,000 students in diverse communities with lower-than-average college-going rates throughout the state. The initiative is now in its second year, and officials credit it with helping increase the number of applications from students at high schools visited last year.
"You are powerful. You are a promise," Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, UCLA's associate vice chancellor for enrollment management, told the Westchester students in her keynote speech. "As I look at the promise that you represent, I am reminded of an old gospel song. And the words to that song say: 'I am a promise. I am a P, a great big bundle of potentiality. I can do whatever I want to do. I can be whatever I want to be. I'm a promise, a potentiality.'"
A first-generation college student and a graduate of Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles herself, Copeland-Morgan encouraged students to dream big and envision themselves as college graduates, but she also reminded them that realizing that dream takes hard work.
"Our expectations are very high," she said. "The problem is not when you set the bar too high and miss it. It's when you set the bar too low and you make it. Setting the bar high and making it is what's impressive to us."
Speaking on financial aid, Copeland-Morgan reassured students that UC's Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan guarantees that students whose families earn less than $80,000 a year will have their entire tuition covered by grants and scholarships, news that was applauded by the audience.
Throughout the assembly, students enthusiastically asked questions, talked about their activities inside and outside the classroom and shared their aspirations.
Janina Montero, UCLA's vice chancellor for student affairs, and Debra Pounds, director of the Early Academic Outreach Program, were also on hand at the event to offer advice and answer questions.
UCLA admissions and academic preparation staff also met with nearly 100 students from the 11th and 12th grades, talking one-on-one about everything from meeting UC's course and testing requirements to completing the UC application and writing their personal statements.
Staff from UCLA's academic preparation programs and financial aid office joined representatives from the Bruin Resource Center and the schools of medicine, dentistry and engineering to put on a college resource fair for the Westchester students. Representatives from other UC campuses, programs and community partners were also available to answer students' questions.