3,000 SF high schoolers spend day at college fairs

By Jill Tucker

Laura Estrada of George Washington High School 
checks her cell phone while waiting for a tour of City College.

More than 3,000 San Francisco high school seniors took a field trip to higher education Friday, converging at several colleges and universities across the city to get a handle on how to apply, register for classes and pay for their tuition.

The "Friday = Successful College Opportunities" - or Frisco - was the first-of-its-kind effort to push every student graduating from high school in the city this spring to focus on their future, particularly college.
The goal was to push the students so that "every high school senior has a plan after high school," said event organizer Maureen Carew, director of SF Promise, which promotes college access.

While 80 percent of San Francisco high school graduates each spring say they plan to go to college, only 70 percent actually do, Carew said.

"There's this summer melt where life happens," she said.

On Friday, hundreds of volunteers and staff at City College, San Francisco State, UCSF and other sites, hosted the city's high school seniors, offering counseling, orientation, applications or whatever else they needed, whether they had an acceptance letter to a university for the fall or were just starting the process.
Burton High School senior Tautalatasi Suesue, 17, stepped off the school bus in the City College parking lot just before 10 a.m. and was quickly herded to an area set aside for students who hadn't yet taken a step toward a higher education.

The teen said he hoped to make it to college, but feared "stuff" would get in the way, including family problems and unspecified neighborhood issues.

"I'm just trying to be the one in my family to make a change," he said.

The Frisco program was pushing him in that direction, despite statistics that indicate that Pacific Islander teens like Tautalatasi have about a 10 percent chance of earning a secondary degree, according to organizers.
Many of the teens who participated in Friday's event would be the first in their families to go to college, said Washington High School counselor Trisha Jump, a chaperone for the event.

"Some students are confused; they're not sure what to do and where to go," Jump said. "For some students, they've never set foot on this campus or any college."

The event offered students one-stop help in tackling the bureaucratic and confusing process of getting to college, including one-on-one sessions with academic counselors.
The event was sponsored by the city, school district and higher education institutions, along with nonprofit organizations.

Most students took school buses to each of the Frisco sites, but were required to find their own way home, a cost-saving decision, but one that would also show students how easy it was to get to and from college in the city, organizers said.

"I am here to tell students that the city is counting on them to get the education they need to become our next generation of innovators and our next generation of leaders," said Mayor Ed Lee, in a statement. "The city is committed to helping them succeed."

E-mail Jill Tucker at jtucker@sfchronicle.com.