Urban Promise Academy added another inspiring chapter to its College for All program this winter, with 80 8th-graders visiting Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz on a three-day, two-night trip.
The tours and panels offered UPA students a wide-ranging impression of the college experience. At Santa Cruz, they got an inside look at daily student life, seeing dorm rooms and eating in the dining hall. At Santa Barbara, they took an “activist tour,” which covered different movements on the campus throughout its history, and the efforts to build diversity at the university. The kids were surprised, says Johnson, to hear so little talk about coursework. Then at Cal Poly, where most of the panelists discussed academics, the 8th-graders told Johnson, “They don’t even care about race here!”
The kids also picked up on the schools’ quirks: “They thought all the bikes at Santa Barbara were hysterical,” recalls Johnson. “Bikers just have the right-of-way everywhere.”
The kids still laugh about the preponderance of bikes. “My favorite was Santa Barbara,” recalls 8th-grader Susanna. “They have a lot of [extracurricular] clubs and I like that. But the bikes were kind of creepy.”
“A lot of the kids just felt relaxed and free,” says Johnson, “ready to have fun and see everything, just breathing everything in. They were fabulous – no drama, no issues.”
“At first I didn’t think I wanted to go to college because I thought it was too much hard work,” says Susanna. “But during our visits the college students told us it is hard, but at the same time you have fun doing it.”
“I thought they really changed their outlook,” says Johnson, “to be more like ‘Yes, I’m going to college and this is what I’m going to do.’”
“My favorite part was Santa Cruz,” says 8th-grader Denise, “because I want to go there. I don’t want to be too far from home – or too close. They showed me they want to get more diversity on campus. The students there told us, ‘We thought we couldn’t do it but we’re here,’ so I think I can do it too.”