VALLEY GLEN, Calif.
While other teenagers were chilling in malls
or bronzing at the beaches this summer, 16-year-old Gloria Sanchez of
Panorama City was busy going to college.
The weekend after school let out, last June, Sanchez and forty-one
other juniors from a science and technology magnet high school in Sun
Valley headed here to Los Angeles Valley College. They’re part of an
education experiment called Early Start — a fast-track program created
with support from the Los Angeles school district and the University of
Administrators hope that the program, Valley College’s aggressive
response to this post-affirmative action era, will help reverse sharp
declines in minority enrollment at UCLA.
“It got personal,” says Yasmin Delahoussaye, Valley College’s
African American dean of student services. “This was going to be an
answer to Proposition 209 at UCLA. Because, let’s face it, they have a
This fall — the first year since the affirmative-action ban took
effect — the number of Hispanic, African American, and other
underrepresented minorities accepted plunged by 38 percent.
In Early Start, tenth and eleventh graders from the John H. Francis
Polytechnic Mathematics, Science, and Technology Magnet school are
expected to complete forty-three hours of college credit by their
senior year in courses such as art history, oceanography, and Chicano
Ideally, Delahoussaye says, students will then enroll in Valley
College’s honors transfer program for a semester and head to UCLA with
enough credits to enroll as juniors — a year and a half ahead of their
And as Valley College honors students, they virtually will be
guaranteed a seat at the prestigious UCLA campus in Westwood in the San
Fernando Valley. For the past five years, 98 percent of Valley
College’s honors transfer students have done just that.
“It’s really great to be in this [program],” Sanchez said at a
recent breakfast reception for the students. “I can skip my [college]
freshman year and save money.”
To be eligible, students must have at least a 3.0 grade-point
average and pass entrance tests in algebra and English. All Valley
classes are free because all Los Angeles school district students have
been able to take tuition-free classes at Los Angeles Community College
District campuses since 1994.
Most participants already are in honors courses, but are non-native
English speakers. In many cases, that makes them less competitive,
especially on writing and English test scores, educators say.
What makes the Early Start program unique from other dual
enrollment programs at Los Angeles-area high schools is that it’s
targeted at boosting ethnic diversity in Valley’s honors program.
Early Start gets a leg up from an agreement that gives high school
students simultaneous high school and college credits for community
college courses. Previously, students who took college classes had to
choose whether they wanted the credit applied toward their high school
diploma or their college degree.
California higher education officials say that programs like Early
Start become increasingly critical as admissions competition grows ever
more fierce at UCLA. The average student admitted to the university
this fall had a GPA of 4.19 and a SAT score of 1324. (Students are
given extra GPA points for certain college prep courses).
“We’re beginning to see more programs like this … reaching out to
underrepresented students that we want to see at UCLA — which, despite
voters, supports diversity,” says Joan Clemons, a UCLA liaison.
Although Early Start is open to all students, most Poly students
are people of color, which means the program — if successful — will
increase minority enrollment at UCLA.
Being in the program is an honor, Sanchez says. Although the Los
Angeles school district foots the costs for busing and for books, the
program also takes some juggling.
Like most students in Early Start, Sanchez also works and is
involved in school activities. This fall, she’ll take five advanced
placement classes at Poly and two at Valley College. Sanchez also
serves on her high school’s student council, is a member of the
school’s debating club and works as a cashier at a local hardware store.
Other students say missing out on summer already has meant considerable sacrifice.
“My entire life has changed,” says Sam Lam, 16, of Arleta. “I used
to go out a lot, to the movies. I have no vacation whatsoever.”
“TV,” Sanchez says, “is a luxury because you have to stay up late.”
But Sanchez, Lam, and other program participants believe that the sacrifices will be worth the future gains.
“It works to your advantage,” says Youssra Marjoua, 15, of Sherman
Oaks, a Poly volleyball player. “It’s not a waste of time.”
Valley College also will be integrating high school students in
classes with college students and pairing them with mentors from a
group of Valley alumni now attending UCLA.
“It’s a good first group,” says Patricia Flenner, Poly’s magnet coordinator. “They have tons of enthusiasm.”
COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com