California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

Cal Lutheran, Moorpark College Paves Way For Local Middle Schoolers’ Education

Moorpark College and California Lutheran University introduced 27 local middle schoolers selected as the first group of ‘Rising Scholars’ in a new college-bound program last month.

Rising Scholars Academy will offer its “cohorts” full tuition and books for two years at Moorpark College and guaranteed acceptance to Cal Lutheran as a transfer applicant upon successful completion of the program through their middle and high school careers.

Moorpark College President and program founder Luis Sanchez said the program was years in the making through conversations with Cal Lutheran.

“We share a lot of common values with Cal Lu. Ultimately, we have a heart and want to try to help those who weren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth have access to higher education,” Sanchez said.

Each year, five members will be offered a full scholarship and the rest will be offered scholarships covering 50 percent of tuition upon transfer to Cal Lutheran.

“Our hope is to reward students who make those long-term commitments. They have to show up, and they have to do the work to get the GPAs to get to the top of the cohort and get those full tuition scholarships,” said Matt Ward, vice president of enrollment management and marketing at Cal Lutheran.

Eligibility requirements for the program include seventh grade status, a C-or-higher grade average, qualification for free or reduced lunch and being the first in their family to attend college.

“Seventh grade is a really critical time for students whose families didn’t go to college,” said Traci Allen, program director and dean of the behavioral and social sciences department at Moorpark College.

This year’s cohort was nominated by principals and counselors from Canyon, Chaparral, Redwood, Sequoia and Sinaloa middle schools, and selected by Moorpark College counselors.

Allen said going forward, this program will increase annually by two students per middle school within the region, in addition to two more schools each year.

However, the funding for this growth is uncertain.

“A lot of initiatives begin with private funding or a grant. I don’t know going forward where the funding might come from,” Allen said.

This year, $48,516 was allocated to the program in part from private donors Anita Venkataraman and Moorpark alum Arpit Malaviya.

After completing a master’s in computer science at UC Santa Barbara, Anita Venkataraman returned home to Conejo Valley to begin the software engineering firm ProDIQ.

The firm took on philanthropic involvement in the form of community-based educational scholarships.

“As a female in STEM, I am passionate about sharing my education story and inspiring others,” Venkataraman said. “It’s not just about college, it provides a path and support along the way. There is a need for support at that age, and oftentimes we don’t realize that need is present within our own community.”

In the future, Rising Scholars Academy will continue to pursue community benefactors, in part with fundraising through the Moorpark College Foundation.

“My hope is that from a financial standpoint we do good by the students and the donors see the benefit and are inspired to give,” Ward said.

However, much of the program operations are being factored into existing job descriptions at each institution. That is, the faculty and staff at both Cal Lutheran and Moorpark College will be taking on more responsibility for running the program.

“We were very eager to launch the program, so we looked at activities we could contribute that wouldn’t necessarily add cost, there is always human cost and commitments that we need to make within current roles and responsibilities within campus,” Ward said.

To maintain eligibility, students must attend mid-semester check-ins with their Moorpark College Student success coaches who are individually assigned at the time of their nomination. These coaches will follow the students through the duration of their middle school and high school careers, ensuring the scholars maintain satisfactory academic performance and workshop participation.

“Where there’s more intrusive advising and support, tutoring, et cetera, we really mitigate the potential for students to fail a class. This is all about early intervention to identify where those gaps are, not just academically, but socially, emotionally, how are they doing along the way,” Ward said.

As students progress though their middle and high school career, they will have access to college visitations, faculty panels, summer sessions and tutoring.

“So often our attention, from an enrollment and admissions standpoint is just the next class. But to really impact students early that might be vulnerable or who are not on the right track to get their college degree, you really have got to make these investments,” Ward said.

To help expand this program by making a donation, you may contact the Moorpark College Foundation at [email protected] or (805) 553-4761.

Isabella Breda
Copy Editor

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