UC Santa Cruz offers ‘college experience’ to seventh-graders

E. A. Hall and San Lorenzo Valley middle school students.fill Quarry Plaza on Friday when they visited UC Santa Cruz to get a taste of college life. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

UC Santa Cruz offers ‘college experience’ to seventh-graders

SANTA CRUZ – Nearly 1,200 Santa Cruz County seventh-graders streamed across the UC Santa Cruz campus Friday, making a reality out of their teachers’ college requirement lessons.

“I want to know how they got here,” said 13-year-old Alondra Flores of Branciforte Middle School. Alondra said she was hoping to learn from a panel of UCSC students.

For many of these students, the 7th Grade College and Career Summit is at least the second time they received a personal introduction to a local college campus, as part of the Santa Cruz County College Commitment partnership. The 2016 class is just the second year to have taken part in the 4th Grade Experience at Cabrillo College, which is designed to first suggest the idea of attending college. The seventh grade program describes the list of high school subject courses needed to attend a California state university or college, the so-called A-G requirements.

Inside a large UCSC campus lecture hall Friday, the day’s first wave of seventh-graders, from Branciforte and Scotts Valley middle schools, raised their hands en masse when asked if they wanted to attend college. One shouted out the reason he wanted to graduate from college: “success.”

“The message is that what they’re doing in middle and high school will matter in college and their careers,” said Michelle Whittingham, UCSC associate vice chancellor of enrollment management and the university’s representative on the college commitment partnership executive team. “We met and discussed as a group what’s the best grade, the most pivotal, to talk about the A through G requirements.”

Students from Branciforte, EA Hall, Lakeview, Rolling Hills, San Lorenzo Valley and Scotts Valley middle schools piled into buses to visit campus Friday, while the other half of the county’s seventh grade students will make a similar visit to CSU Monterey Bay next month. After a round of “extreme rock paper scissors” in the Quarry Plaza, the students came together in the lecture hall, then broke out into smaller classroom sessions.

“I play soccer and I wanted to know what it takes to become famous,” Alex Guzman, 12, said during a break in filling out a chart with how many years of which college-prep courses are called for in high school.

Alex, of Branciforte Middle, was hesitant to admit he would also like to become an astronaut, but worried it would be “too hard” because of the large amount of studying required.

Santa Cruz City Schools Kris Munro, whose son was amidst the seventh grade crowd this year, said the college commitment partnership is about to apply for a nearly $1 million grant to support mathematics teachers’ professional development. That money would translate into students who are more college-ready, she said.