By Shauna Shalton De Jesus
It started with an assignment in our social work policy class. We were challenged to make a difference within a community. Our professor, Ms. Gigi Crawley, wanted to teach us about advocacy in action and help us understand the steps it takes to get the wheels in motion. We chose the unincorporated area of Muscoy as our target area and soon discovered Pal Charter High School; the only high school actually within the immediate area. As we learned about the facility and their students, it was perfectly clear to us that we wanted to reach out. We felt such a strong draw to help them continue on and pursue higher education after graduation. Our mission is not only to empower the students themselves, but also to help the community of Muscoy improve their socio-economic status. So with these goals in mind, we got permission to host a “Road to College” workshop at the school for the juniors and seniors on March 10.
Our workshop will provide step by step instruction on everything these students need to know to get to college. We want to stress that it is their choice, it is their future, and we support them in pursuit of their dreams.
Due to their curriculum at Pal Charter, they do not meet the state criteria for transfer directly to a 4 year university like CSUSB; but, we don’t want them to think because of this that college is out of the question. Many of Pal’s students opt to go directly into the workforce or a trade school post-graduation, thinking that college is not a viable option. But most of us started our path at community college so we’d like to share our journey and our insight.
We feel that since we are also students, they can relate to us more than they would the normal guidance counselors or authority figures. We think this workshop is important because the youth are our future and they deserve to know their potential. Many of Pal’s students have hit rough patches in life that have taken them on a detour or slowed them down; or maybe education has not been emphasized throughout their life. We want to acknowledge that since they are the future, a brighter one starts with their gains. The socio-economic status of the community can only be changed when we start working toward supporting those who will grow up in it and continue to live there.
As we planned this workshop, it became apparent that we did not want to simply stop here. A workshop is a great source of information but what happens after that? What happens when it is time to put that information to use and start taking action? There will definitely be questions, possibly some confusion because the process is new and unfamiliar. Sometimes it can be enough to discourage people from continuing on and we did not want that to happen with these students. So we began planning the launch of a mentoring project that will partner students and alumni from San Bernardino Valley College and Cal State San Bernardino with Pal Charter’s students. If our pilot program is successful, we’d like to see it grow and branch out to other high schools in the area and work with other colleges as well.
Our group, “S.M.I.L.E – Social Worker’s Movement in Learning Enrichment”, consists of four CSUSB Bachelor of Social work students: Shauna De Jesus, Jannice Burling, Kenya Sanchez, and Ronnie Washington. Our specific area of study within the program is child welfare. We are reaching out to college students and graduates who have the same passion as we do and who share the same dedication to helping other students grow and reach their goals. These high school students are our future and we’d like them to realize how amazing they truly are. We believe in them and want to help them believe in themselves. Thank you and if you have any interest in partnering with us to achieve these goals, please contact us at (909) 322-7666 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.