Alumni Gather to Help Students Accomplish Dreams
By Alejandra Alarcon
It took some venting on Facebook to gather Coachella Valley High School alumni from all over the country in the living room of Mandy Lucas, a 2006 graduate.
“I have never been in a room with about 20 Arab alumni that have had a college experience, never,” said Mario Castillo, a teacher, coach and adviser at Coachella Valley High School. “And I’m 35.”
After visiting their old high school to give college presentations to Castillo’s students, Mandy Lucas and Alejandra Gutierrez, also a graduate of 2006, realized that their former teacher’s students had many questions about getting prepared for their futures and had no clue how to get resources for college at their own high school.
“It’s not a culture, in our high school, to go to college,” Castillo said. “The odds are pretty stacked up for students at CV. It’s very sad that out of 2,700 kids, only 300 are going to college.”
Lucas and Gutierrez used social media to their advantage to let their friends know how upset they were that Coachella Valley High no longer has college preparatory programs such as Catch A Dream, Avid, and Gear Up. It did not take long for former CVHS students to take action.
Members of the Coachella Valley Alumni Coalition have had three meetings since they first gathered in December. They plan to gain support from CVHS students and parents to address the administration about their movement. The group is determined to spread college awareness, and has ambitious goals to connect with high school students on campus.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from; everyone should have opportunities,” said Grisel Nunez, member of the Coachella Valley Alumni Coalition and an employee at the Desert Recreation District. “I am passionate about kids getting an education because education is the key that opens any door.”
College preparatory programs were cut from CVHS because very few students were meeting graduation requirements, forcing administration to switch the focus to replacement courses such as CAHSEE support classes, APEX, or remedial classes. “We need to make sure that everyone is on target to graduate,” said Rafael Barboza, a counselor at CVHS.
Even though CVHS students do not have college preparations programs, the counseling office has held numerous workshops for college applications, scholarship portfolios, and financial aid information this year. Counselors Barboza and Miguel Lopez have been doing all they can to inform every senior at CVHS about the college application process.
“I want to be able to provide as many scholarships as I can for the class of 2012,” Barboza said. “I took a picture while the seniors posed for their shot,” he added, pointing at the enlarged and framed panoramic photograph of the seniors sitting in the Arab home bleachers. “I want this class to have their FAFSA and verification completed soon. I know this class is motivated and dedicated. I do not want money to be a concern.”
“Kids don’t understand how hard it is,” Castillo said. “Us adults know that life without education is tough.” College is a foreign thing to many students at Coachella Valley High School. The Coachella Valley Alumni Coalition’s goal is to inform and provide students with all that is required to get into college to create the college culture for students on campus.