For East Bay students, a visit from spirit of college futures

Thousands of young people in and around Berkeley got a glimpse of their futures  and the role college could play in making those futures brighter at Berkeley College and Career Day, a citywide celebration of higher education spearheaded by the UC Berkeley Center for Educational Partnerships and Berkeley Alliance and underwritten by the Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund.

As part of Friday’s Berkeley College and Career Day, Brice Myers, of Grand Canyon University, talks to students at the Berkeley Technology Academy. (Steve Hockensmith photo)

Friday’s daylong event brought speakers and college recruiters to 19 Berkeley schools. Preschoolers got to meet Oski, the Cal mascot, who brought bear hugs and a big thumbs-up for higher ed.

Similar events have been held in San Jose the past two years, thanks to support from the Center for Educational Partnerships. The expansion to Berkeley was made possible by $10,000 from the Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund administered by Berkeley Alliance, which seeks to improve the performance of Berkeley schools through new collaborations.

“It is so important that all of our children and youth know that the entire community has high expectations for their future, and will support and nurture their dreams  and that the campus wants all students to have many options and opportunities open to them no matter what they eventually decide to pursue,” said Gail Kaufman, deputy director of the Center for Educational Partnerships.

“Students shouldn’t be thinking ‘if I go to college,'” she added, “but ‘where will I go and what might I want to study?’ That planning for their future should be the norm for all our children, and the university has an important role to play in that effort.”

Berkeley College and Career Day reached out to everyone from high-school seniors down to preschoolers. Several schools invited former students back to talk about their college experiences, and there were assemblies, activities, in-classroom presentations and even an ice cream social devoted to higher education. Other special guests at Berkeley schools included the UC Straw Hat Band and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.

“I’m very excited to help bring the first College and Career Day to Berkeley,” Bates said. “From students to educators to elected officials to community members along with UC Berkeley, we all play a distinct role in building successful educational pathways that span early childhood to adulthood.”

At Berkeley Technology Academy, an alternative high school for credit-deficient students, College and Career Day brought visits from the mayor as well as representatives from a variety of colleges and employers.

“It’s important to reach students in this population because they often don’t have the outside resources or support they need. They don’t know their options,” said Antoinette Cooks, the academy’s after-school coordinator and college and career liaison. “A lot of the kids I’ve worked with  and I’ve been with the school district 17 years  if they’re not already geared toward college, they don’t have a direction. Providing them with that direction is important so that they’re successful adults.”