UCSF and SFUSD Collaborate to Prepare Students for College

Community Outreach Program Aims to Boost Graduation Rates

By Patricia Yollin on April 26, 2012

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Stacy Wong and Matthew Dabit, both 18, and aspiring UC college students, participate in FRISCO Day at UCSF Mission Bay, a program designed to help high school students manage the transition from high school to college.

Heading off to college is almost always daunting, even for the most accomplished high school students. That’s why about 500 San Francisco seniors flocked to UCSF Mission Bay recently for something called FRISCO Day.

Friday Successful College Options Day, now in its second year, gives graduating students a sense of what lies ahead so that they’ll be better equipped to deal with the unknown, said Orlando Elizondo, director of the partnership between San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and UCSF.

The Mission Bay gathering, co-hosted by UCSF’s Student Academic Affairs and Community and Government Relations, was aimed at seniors who will be going to one of UC’s nine undergraduate campuses. Separate non-UC events are preparing students bound for City College, San Francisco State, colleges outside California or private colleges. The shared goal is the same: Lowering the college dropout rate.

Donald Woodson, deputy director of Student Academic Affairs at UCSF
Donald Woodson, deputy director of Student Academic Affairs (SAA) at UCSF, moderates a conference for high school seniors from the San Francisco Unified School District, at UCSF Mission Bay.

“You can get information anywhere,” said Donald Woodson, deputy director of UCSF’s Center for Educational Partnerships. “But what about when you leave your friends and your family? Things that are internal. We wanted to make sure it hit home.”

It definitely did, judging by the reaction of students during and after the five-hour session on April 13, which covered financial aid, social/family transitions and academic competency. Woodson led them through the day with energy and spirit.

Overcoming Life's Obstacles

Richard Carranza, then-deputy superintendent of SFUSD, described the obstacles he had faced in college. And a small group from UC Berkeley’s Student Life Advising Services spoke of potential hurdles in a way that struck a chord.

“It’s not real until you hear from someone who’s gone through it,” said Balboa High senior Jasmine Minato, who is a mix of Filipino, African American, Swedish and Japanese and worries about encountering culture shock at UC San Diego. “We were all so empowered by Ruben’s story.”

She was referring to Ruben Canedo, who will graduate from Cal with degrees in social welfare and ethnic studies and three job offers. Entertaining and charismatic, he had the room alternately laughing and close to tears as he talked about a life of ups and downs.

Ruben Elias Canedo Sanchez, a research and mobilization coordinator at UC Berkel
Ruben Elias Canedo Sanchez, a research and mobilization coordinator at UC Berkeley, delivers an inspirational speech to aspiring college students at a community outreach event for high school seniors at UCSF Mission Bay.

Canedo was born in Mexico and later moved to Calexico, a border town. His mother was an undocumented immigrant and he went to a terrible high school. His tuition was covered but he worked four jobs his first year at Cal to help out his family — which had a household income of $13,000 a year — and barely slept. As a result, he flunked every course his first two semesters.

“That’s because I lost myself,” Canedo said. “... But all those struggles and challenges, were nothing compared to everything my ancestors had to go through way back when.”

Speakers make it clear that students will have to deal with all kinds of things: Navigating a financial aid thicket that includes grants, work/study, loans and scholarships; doing laundry, managing a budget, living with strangers and learning the difference between needs and wants; feeling like an impostor who doesn’t deserve to be at UC; and coping with much larger schools and an unprecedented level of academic rigor.

“I felt like I didn’t need anybody. After three months, you realize, ‘Wait a minute, maybe this isn’t as easy as I thought.’ I decided to turn off my hard-headed stubbornness,” said Jeanette Corona, a second-year Cal student who urged the seniors to seek out counselors and take advantage of the vast array of services UC offers.

Carranza — who was named San Francisco schools superintendent on April 24 — told the seniors that he, like many of them, was the first in his family to go to college. He’d ask himself why he was studying when friends who didn’t advance beyond high school were making lots of money in the Tucson mining industry, which collapsed during his sophomore year at the University of Arizona.

Richard Carranza
Richard Carranza, then-deputy superintendent for the San Francisco Unified School District, inspired high school seniors to find a career they enjoy, at the second annual "FRISCO Day" at UCSF Mission Bay.

And suddenly, his pals’ new cars and trucks were parked on street corners with “for sale” signs. They lost their apartments and had to move back home with their parents. They were selling their fancy electronics gear.

“And I had a job. Better yet, I had a career, something I loved to do,” said Carranza, who noted that the difference between a high school and college degree is worth $1 million over the course of one’s work life.
Afterward, Alex Yu, a Burton High senior accepted at UC Santa Cruz and on the wait list at UC Davis, said being an intern at UCSF’s Science & Health Education Partnership (SEP) program last summer made him more confident about completing assignments and working with people, especially older ones. Still, he has concerns.

“I live with my mom and grandfather, and I’m an only child,” Yu said. “I’m family-oriented and I worry about the impact it will have on them when I’m gone.”