The city of Los Altos March 4 recognized Mountain View-Los Altos Community Scholars for its philanthropy and community service.
Los Altos Mayor Val Carpenter presented Dee Gibson, president of the organization, a proclamation in celebration and acknowledgment of the non-profit group’s mission to improve the economic mobility of high-potential, underserved youth by providing scholarships and mentoring to make college accessible and a four-year degree achievable.
The mayoral proclamation recognized MVLA Community Scholars for its unique role in the community in not only offering college scholarships, but also follow-up mentoring.
The scholarships grant the recipients financial support renewable each year of college and entitle them to one-on-one mentoring throughout their college experience. Mentors provide emotional support, assistance in acclimating to the college environment and advice in developing and maintaining a personal budget. Mentors work to resolve challenges before they become problems and help students remain focused on earning their degrees.
Carpenter noted that 98 percent of the organization’s scholarships are awarded to students who are the first members of their families to attend college. MVLA Community Scholars has assisted 180 students since 2000, with 51 currently receiving financial aid. The scholarships are awarded each year in April.
Barry Groves, superintendent of the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District and member of the MVLA Community Scholars Board of Directors, described a new service offered by the group. Beginning this year, trained mentors will guide select students through the often difficult transition from high school to college.
High school mentors Candace Lublin and Andrea Gorman explained their role as part-parent, part-counselor and part-financial/budget consultant.
“We discuss what college opportunities are available and guide students through application processes for both college acceptance and financial aid,” Lublin said.
They assert that it is important to help students remain on schedule not only with college applications, but also with funding-request deadlines and scholarship-selection requirements. Both mentors said they have a strong personal interest in seeing their students continue their education.
“We meet with each student once a week, and although we can keep in touch over the phone, this face-to-face time is essential to developing trust,” Gorman said. “It’s convenient, too, since meetings take place in a classroom at the student’s high school.”
Lublin emphasized the role of training in the mentorship program. Mentors attend several seminars each year to develop a comprehensive knowledge of the college system and keep current on changes.
“We need the training to be good mentors,” Lublin said.
Groves highlighted the positive effects that MVLA Community Scholars has on students. He said the scholarship recipients send a message to those who might think college is out of reach either financially or culturally, and that message is: “Modify your beliefs.”
According to MVLA Community Scholars representatives, the organization faces a substantial challenge. With recent increases in college tuition, they need increased scholarship funding. MVLA Community Scholars is working to keep its scholarships at a comparable level to the need.