Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | March 27, 2012

Project Roadmap deserves your support

CAHSEE. ED. SAT. ACT. GPA. AP. FAFSA. EFC. CLEP.

The college admissions process is a confusing stew of acronyms, jargon and can’t-miss deadlines that’s difficult even for students who enjoy every advantage. Now imagine trying to navigate it if your parents didn’t attend college, aren’t native English speakers, or work long hours at low-paying jobs to make ends meet and don’t have the time or information to help.

Next, add to the mix the chronic state public education budget cuts that drastically reduced the number of public high school guidance counselors in California. The result: Many good students who dream of attending college won’t achieve that goal.

Confused over Doc from the Flickr photostream of cali.org

U.S. Department of Education statistics for the 2009-2010 school year show that California has one guidance counselor for every 810 high school students. The American School Counselor Association says guidance counselors should have a maximum caseload of 250 students.

Insufficient counseling resources have a lasting negative effect on students’ lives. In September 2010, U.S. News & World Report noted that “Students who are poorly counseled in high school are more likely to delay college and make questionable higher education choices,” citing Jean Johnson, who coauthored a March 2010 Public Agenda study.

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce released a report entitled “The College Payoff” last August with this stunning comparison: “Bachelor’s degree holders earn 31 percent more than workers with an Associate’s degree and 74 percent more than those with just a high school diploma.”

Morgan Hill Unified School District trustee Claudia Rossi has first-hand experience with facing the college-admissions process alone. She is the child of parents who didn’t attend college and were not native English speakers.

“My father was a car mechanic. He worked very long hours,” Rossi told me. Like her father, her mother “did not study beyond high school. She worked as a seamstress when we were little and made less than minimum wage. She was paid by the piece and worked till midnight as long as I can remember.”

Although her parents encouraged her dream to attend college, they were unable to help Rossi navigate the complicated college-admissions process. On her own in the college-admissions maze, Rossi delayed college and struggled with the process when she did apply.

Rossi saw many MHUSD students in similar circumstances and decided to take action. Along with the Morgan Hill Community Foundation’s Mario Banuelos, Central High principal Irene Macias-Morris, Britton science teacher George Flores, and National Hispanic University’s Dr. Freda Rossi, she started Project Roadmap to help guide students who want to go to college but need help learning about and navigating the process.

Project Roadmap is an alliance partner of the Morgan Hill Community Foundation. A web site is planned for this summer. High school counselors are identifying students who have the motivation and ability to attend and succeed in college, but who are struggling due to factors like socio-economic status, being the first in their family to attend college, or language barriers.

One of the families that Project Roadmap is already helping is the Lucatero family in Morgan Hill. Two of the four Lucatero children are in high school and participating in Project Roadmap: Ramon, Jr., 16, is a junior at Live Oak, and Ebony, 14, is a freshman. Neither Tabitha Lucatero nor her husband attended college, but she is determined that her children will.

“I find [Project Roadmap] extremely helpful. Claudia understands my frustration. Sometimes I’m scared that I don’t know what I’m doing,” Tabitha told me. “With Claudia, I’m dealing with someone who understands my situation, where I’m at, that I’m trying to get my kids to get to college. She’s talked to me about her experience where her parents didn’t go to college, but she went.”

Project Roadmap needs volunteers to serve as mentors to students. Mentors encourage students as they work to fulfill their dream of attending college, and serve as role models for the kinds of careers that college makes possible. Project Roadmap also needs volunteers to help students complete forms like the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and others. And they need donors to help pay for classes, like SAT prep, that Project Roadmap offers to participants.

To make a tax-deductible donation, send a check payable to Morgan Hill Community Foundation to PO Box 1974, Morgan Hill, 95038, noting “Project Roadmap” in the check’s memo field. To volunteer or get more information, email Claudia Rossi at claudiamarossi@yahoo.com.

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