Charting a Course to Success: Outreach Ambassadors deliver new Interactive Presentations

This spring, California State University, Northridge’s (CSUN) Building Connections for Success conducted college presentations to more than 250 junior and senior San Fernando High School students on the benefits of earning a Bachelor’s Degree and what to expect in college.

High School Outreach Coordinator Adriana Garcia trained six CSUN seniors with diverse majors including Psychology, Health Administration and Child and Adolescent Development on how to best deliver the 45-minute college discussion, which included a financial breakdown of living expenses, comparisons in salaries between a high school and college education and a new “Career Exploration” exercise that allowed the high school students to explore their skills and discuss potential career goals with each other.

“You really don’t ever talk about this with your friends when you are in high school,” said Garcia. “Typical discussions involve what movies are playing on the weekend or who is going to the basketball game. This exercise was a great way for students to learn more about themselves and each other, and many students were surprised to learn things about their friends.”

Outreach Ambassador and CSUN psychology major Naomi Esparza says the Career Exploration exercise was a great addition to the college presentation, which she says became a unique networking activity.

“It was nice to see the students discover and meet new classmates who were interested in the same major,” said Esparza. “One student already had a website of what classes to take in their major and exchanged contact information with another student. Now they’re working together on planning for college. It’s great!”

An alumna from San Fernando High School, class of 2006, Esparza attended Los Angeles Mission College before transferring to CSUN in 2009 and entered college with an undeclared major. Esparza knows first hand about discovering strengths and skills in college and says the “Career Exploration” exercise is a great way for students to start thinking about what they want to do before graduating high school.

“Sharing my personal experience helped me connect with the students, and I could tell they were inspired to go to college after I told them I graduated from San Fernando High School and was able to make that transition to college without declaring a major right away” said Esparza.

In addition to the fears of deciding on a major, students were shocked to learn about the cost of living expenses and the annual earnings gap between college and high school graduates—a more than $20,000 difference.

Outreach Ambassadors deliver presentation at MEChA de CSUN’s 14th Annual Raza Youth Conference

With the startling correlation between education level and compensation, the students, many of who are first generation, began to change their minds and consider pursuing a college education. As tuition hikes continue to spike and other student fees increase, however, many high school students questioned how they would be able to afford it.

The Outreach Ambassadors educated the students on their financial options and informed them about FAFSA, Cal Grants, loans and applying for scholarships.

“I was surprised to find that some high school students weren’t educated about college at all,” said Outreach Ambassador Johanna Quintanilla. “There was a class that I spoke to who didn’t even know what a major was.”

Educating students about basic college facts and terminology in high school can allow more time for the student to consider going to college and plan their academic and career goals.

How can we ensure every student is informed about how to prepare for college? Esparza says college discussions should begin in 9th grade and by parents in the home.

“All high school students need presentations like these, and the earlier the discussion starts in high school, the better,” said Esparza. “The responsibility also lies in parents as well. If we can educate the parents about the benefits of sending their children to college instead of just encouraging them work after high school, that would make a world of a difference.”