Fri12192014

Community

Downtown College Prep schools encourage, empower students



Downtown College Prep students spend four 45-minute periods a week preparing college applications, with support from teachers and staff. Traci Newell/ Town Crier

For teachers and students alike, Downtown College Prep schools are a family, and family members don’t let each other down.

“The teachers are committed to helping you out,” said Mario Rodriguez, a member of the 78-student senior class at Downtown College Prep in San Jose. “They give you a sense of comfort and make school feel like home. Here, you actually know your teachers and they spend time with you, and that is something I really value and cherish.”

Downtown College Prep schools are charter schools in the San Jose Unified and Alum Rock school districts. The singular mission for students, most the first in their families to apply to college, is be accepted to and enroll at a four-year university, a graduation requirement.

Last week at Downtown College Prep in San Jose, Rodriguez and his classmates celebrated the completion of the UC and CSU college admissions process.

“It was really stressful, but it was really worth it,” said senior Audrey Aguilar. “I felt like sometimes I was thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I’m good enough.’ But I just had to get over that fear.”

One of the aspects that makes Downtown College Prep unique is that students spend four 45-minute periods a week preparing college applications, with support from teachers and staff.

Jeff Dagan, senior English teacher, said he has a chart in his room tracking his students’ progress in meeting deadlines for college admissions.

“It’s amazing how many of our students go to college,” he said. “This little rule of having the graduation requirement of being accepted into a four-year university really works to get them going right from the beginning. Making it a structural piece and requirement is the key to why we are so successful.”

Downtown College Prep believes that all students, regardless of academic achievement, could and should be prepared for college success. Five hundred graduates later, the school continues to build transformational learning communities where students become pioneers in their families and communities.

Downtown College Prep is committed to college success. The school’s “To and Through” college completion model ensures that graduates and their families are supported in the pursuit of a college degree. With a focus on students who are historically underserved by traditional public schools, Downtown College Prep families are largely low-income Latino families with limited education.

Next year, Downtown College Prep will add 550 seats in its Alum Rock and San Jose schools. Alum Rock currently serves sixth- through ninth-graders but is growing to eventually continue through 12th grade. Next year, the San Jose school will add a sixth-grade program, which will connect to the current ninth- through 12th-grade program.

The Town Crier Holiday Fund’s contribution supports Downtown College Prep programs in San Jose and Alum Rock.

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