On October 10th, many of the schools in Santa Clara County will participate in College Day, a day meant inspire a college-going culture, so that all elementary, middle, and high school students can see themselves going to college. Director of Kids In Common (a program of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte), Dana Bunnett, answers five questions for CommUniverCity about the upcoming College Day. To learn even more about College Day and how you can get involved, visit www.collegeday.org.
CommUniverCity: How was College Day started? What was the motivation or catalyst?
Dana Bunnett: College Day started 4 years ago and was the brainchild of Claudia Morales from Berkeley who was working in the San Jose Unified School District to encourage more first generation students to apply to the UC and CSU system. Our loosely knit collaborative said, let’s do it throughout San Jose. It was a little like the story of Stone Soup. We had no budget and no money and we each contributed what we could and ended up with this great event.
CommUniverCity: How has College Day grown since it’s first year? What impact do you see as a result of implementing College Day?
Dana: Since the first year, College Day has expanded to all of Santa Clara County. Last year we added a Family and Community Conference, hosted by San Jose State University, with sessions about planning for college and paying for college offered in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. SJSU also opened up their computer lab and high school seniors were able to get help with the UC/CSU college applications.
College Day is creating a college-going culture in Santa Clara County. 82% of the students who completed a College Day survey reported that the saw themselves going to college. Another 16% thought they may go to college.
One wonderful example of how College Day supports a college-going culture is Katherine Smith Elementary School. They held rallies, and the students decorated college mascot posters. If you go to www.collegeday.org you can see a video of their College Day activities and how excited EVERYONE at this school is about going to college.
CommUniverCity: How does this year’s theme (Destination: College!) fit into the College Day mission?
Dana: This theme and Michelle Obama’s “Reach Higher” initiative sets the aspiration that all students can think of College as the next step along their path to success in life.
CommUniverCity: What is your hope for College Day in the future? What do you hope students and guest speakers get out of participating in College Day?
Dana: I hope the momentum of College Day continues to grow. Every student should have a college dream that is grounded in reality. Unfortunately, for many of our students, this dream seems out of reach. Only 41% of Santa Clara County high school students take the a-g requirements that will allow entry into the UC/CSU system. Even worse, only 18% of our Latino students and 25% of our African American complete those requirements. I would like to see that number up to 100%. Then, our students have choices about their next step in life.
CommUniverCity: Finish the sentence: If I could implement any groundbreaking change in Santa Clara County schools, it would be ________
Dana: This statement is hard for me. Instead, I would say: we can all make the difference in a child’s life by taking the time to talk with him or her about the future – a future that includes college. By talking about your own college experience to the students you know, teach, or work with, you can help them see that there is a path for them to college. Even better, talk with that student about his or her strengths and their dreams. Help that student see how or she is special and wonderful and how college can help them achieve those dreams.