By: Todd Eric Lovato, Executive Director, Santa Fe Community College
Too many high school students and their families in our region still don’t think college is within their reach. Research shows that the barriers for these students can be significant. Financial uncertainty, family obligations and immigration status are common barriers cited among those who do not enter higher education after high school. First-time college students may also have to overcome a number of cultural or gender-based misconceptions — “men should go straight to work,” “women need to dedicate themselves exclusively to their children,” “education isn’t macho,” “I’m not college material,” and “I can’t attend college because of my immigration status.”
Opportunity Santa Fe’s Campus Connection collaboration between Santa Fe Community College and the Santa Fe Public Schools is working to identify and break down barriers that prevent high school graduates from making the leap to college.
On May 14 and 15, SFPS and SFCC partnered to provide placement testing and Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) assistance to 49 high school students at Capital High School and Santa Fe High School. The goal is to ensure that 100 percent of these seniors are ready to qualify for college and apply for financial aid. Placement testing and completing the FAFSA can be daunting and complicated steps that can deter students from reaching their educational aspirations. Forty-nine students represent about 10 percent of seniors attending both high schools.
“With the help of our friends at the Santa Fe Community College we can make sure our students don’t fall through the cracks,” said SFPS Superintendent Dr. Veronica Garcia. “Together, we can expose our students to new opportunities and provide the assistance needed to help them realize their full potential.”
During the event, students were guided through the necessary steps to complete their financial aid and placement testing. They were also treated to a free lunch from SFCC and awarded with small gift certificates, courtesy of Opportunity Santa Fe.
“By collaborating with SFPS to bring placement testing and financial aid support to high school campuses, we hope to encourage all high school students that higher education is a realistic and accessible option after high school,” said SFCC President Dr. Cecilia Cervantes.
Under the direction of Superintendent Garcia and President Cervantes and spearheaded by SFCC administrator Rebecca Estrada, the event was made possible through the participation of numerous staff and administrators from both SFCC and SFPS.
Opportunity Santa Fe’s AmeriCorps VISTA members are now throwing their muscle behind the effort by conducting a follow up focus group in order to garner more information on this particular student population and the lessons learned from these two high school workshops.
Now set up with the blueprint for a successful collaboration, SFCC and SFPS are in the planning phases for future events and exploring ways to scale up these initial successes.
Santa Fe Community College hosts “Ticket to College” on June 12 at the SFCC Main Campus. Students will have another opportunity to meet with SFCC staff, to complete their placement testing, and to have individualized assistance completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and SFCC Scholarship Application including one focused on DACA/DREAMER students. To reserve a spot, feel free to call Jennifer at 428-1483.
Todd Eric Lovato is the Executive Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Santa Fe Community College. He is a recovering journalist, amateur home builder and part time musician but spends most of his energy on his young children. He is a regional recipient of the National Council of Marketing and Public Relations’ “Communicator of the Year.”