By Mardeen Ahmad 

 

Cuyamaca College has partnered with Cajon Valley Middle School on a new program called College is for Me. The program aims to get middle schoolers excited about higher education by introducing them early to college campuses and courses.

 

While Cajon Valley Assistant Principal Vidalia Resendes was doing her doctoral research, she learned that children begin to feel disengaged from education around middle school. Knowing that, Resendes took the idea of College is for Me to her superintendent, Dr. David Miyashiro, who reached out to Cuyamaca College President, Dr. Julianna Barnes.

 

The idea was enthusiastically received by all, and the program began in summer 2021. Students in Cajon Valley’s Camp Cajon summer program were members of the inaugural College is for Me.  About twenty students participated in a three-week-long sociology course at Cuyamaca College.

 

“Community” College

Resendes says the decision to partner with Cuyamaca was deliberate. Many students do not pursue higher education because of the cost. “We need to do a better job of letting them know that community college is free,” said Resendes.

 

Choosing a community college also provided the space and expertise to build the confidence of the participating students. Like many of the students at Cajon Valley, Resendes is an immigrant and found herself struggling in high school. She credits her community college faculty with helping her to build the confidence necessary for her to be academically successful. “To give the feeling that ‘I belong here’ really transforms the four-year experience,” said Resendes.

 

Establishing a familiarity with Cuyamaca College in middle school will provide students with a connection to the college and the confidence to engage higher education when the time comes. “If you pass a college course at 12, you can pass one at 18,” Resendes says. It has become the motto of the program.

 

College Bound

Prior to the course beginning, Resendes asked a couple of students if they planned on going to college. At that time, they responded with uncertainty. After participating in College is for Me, the students decided that college was in fact for them.

 

“I think that’s our goal. It’s to get them to turn around and say, ‘I can do it, I want to do it.”