Photo By: Courtesy of Alearn
Los Altos High School graduate Salvador Chavez attests to ALearn’s help in teaching him leadership skills.
When Salvador Chavez first attended ALearn’s Catalyst to High School program, he was a shy student who didn’t actively participate in the classroom.
Chavez, who graduated from Los Altos High School and now attends Dominican University in San Rafael, said the ALearn program gave him the confidence to discover and develop his leadership abilities.
“I was able to make a lot of friends and it boosted my self-esteem,” he said. “I just felt my opinion was valued. It set the basis for my leadership skills.”
Chavez immediately participated in school activities when he entered Los Altos High, joining the Associated Student Body and eventually becoming president of the Latino Student Union.
“Going into high school, (the Catalyst to High School) program definitely helped because I decided to get involved really early,” he said.
Chavez, the first in his family to attend college, said his drive toward college began in the ALearn transition program. He still employs the skills he learned from the program in college.
Preparing Santa Clara County students emotionally and socially for the transition to high school is just one of the goals of ALearn’s Catalyst to High School program. The six-week program, held the summer before participating students enter high school, is designed for those falling behind in math in junior high school.
“Underrepresented students usually fall off their academic paths in math,” ALearn Director Kathryn Hanson said. “We take the kids who had eighth-grade algebra but weren’t quite proficient. It is a math acceleration program which aims to enable the student to go as far as they can in high school.”
This year, Hanson said ALearn plans to incorporate another element in the program for those accelerating in math, adding geometry sections to help those ready to advance more quickly in high school.
“Adding a geometry element allows some of our students to take calculus in their senior year,” she said. “UCs now greatly favor those who take calculus.”
In addition to math acceleration, Hanson emphasized that the program works with families to prepare them to encourage and support their students as they pursue success in high school and college.
Many parents who didn’t have the opportunity to attend college – or, in some cases, high school – don’t understand the complexity of the college track, according to Hanson.
“We are going deeper to make sure the whole experience is really life-changing for the students, and we want to bring the parents deeper into the discussion as well,” she said.