Nearly 1,100 students from Washington Preparatory High School, located in southeast Los Angeles County, gathered today for a morning assembly where senior leaders from UCLA delivered a simple, but inspiring message: A UC education is within your reach.

The visit to the high school — where approximately 54 percent of the students are African American and 43 percent Hispanic while 83 percent come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds — was part of Achieve UC, a University of California effort aimed at inspiring students from low-income communities to see themselves as college material.

“Getting a college education today is not an option; it’s a necessity,” said Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, UCLA’s associate vice chancellor for enrollment management, who delivered the assembly’s keynote speech. “It is a necessary step to fully participate in the American dream of having a good job and a viable career, having strong earning potential and having an opportunity to give back to your families and your communities.”

Reed Hutchinson/UCLA
UCLA staff from admissions, a college preparation program and other campus departments put on a resource fair to meet students and answer their questions.

In addition to Copeland-Morgan, the UCLA delegation included Janina Montero, vice chancellor for student affairs; Keith Parker, assistant vice chancellor for government and community relations; and Gary Clark, director of admissions.

UC President Janet Napolitano also had a special video message for the Washington Preparatory students, reassuring them that if they study hard and challenge themselves, a UC education is available to them.

Copeland-Morgan received a round of applause from the audience when she talked about the challenges she had to overcome as a first-generation college student. She reminded the students that getting into a UC school is not only possible, but affordable.

“I am pleased to share with you that the University of California has a program called the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan,” Copeland-Morgan said. “In a nutshell, if you qualify for financial aid and your family income falls below $80,000 a year, you won’t have to pay a penny of tuition, because it’ll all be covered by UC.”

As part of Achieve UC, leaders from all 10 UC campuses will reach out to approximately 30,000 students from high schools all over the state with lower than average college-going rates. Now in its third year, Achieve UC has helped increase by 30 percent the number of applications to a UC campus from students at these targeted high schools.

In addition to the assembly, staff from the UCLA Admissions Office and the Early Academic Outreach Program — UCLA’s largest academic preparation initiative — held six concurrent sessions for Washington Preparatory high school students on such topics as applying to UC, becoming a competitive applicant, taking standardized admissions tests and working on a personal statement.

To talk to individual students and answer their questions, UCLA representatives from the Bruin Resource Center, the schools of medicine, dentistry and engineering and other campus departments joined staff from other UC campuses and community partners at a resource fair to reinforce the message that college could be in students' futures.

"Every single one of you deserves the opportunity to be prepared for college so that you may choose to be whatever you desire to be," Copeland-Morgan told the students.