Sweetwater District students visit San Diego State University
Written by Dr. Mary L. Lawlor, retired principal of Eastlake High School
Over 4,000 Sweetwater Union High School District 7th graders and their parents converged on the San Diego State University campus in 68 buses on Saturday, October 29, 2011 for the 12th annual 7th grade campus visit to SDSU in recognition of the Compact for Success, an agreement between San Diego State and the Sweetwater Union High School District that guarantees admission to the University to any Sweetwater graduate who meets the Compact's benchmarks upon graduation.
Introduction Highlight Video
With group sizes ranging from 20 from SAILS, a small alternative school campus, to a high of 643 from National City Middle School, students and parents crossed the campus lead by over one hundred volunteers dressed in bright red vests to assemble in the Viejas Arena in preparation for a morning filled with motivational remarks, campus tours, informational workshops and booths, musical entertainment, and a catered lunch provided by Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill.
As each of the 12 schools' cadres of participants filed into the arena to eventually fill over half of the venue, each student received a welcoming SDSU gift bag containing Compact for Success memorabilia including a commemorative T-shirt, backpack, and a Compact folder with an informational booklet about SDSU, a flyer outlining the "A-G" course requirements, a pencil and an evaluation form for the visit. Being a participant also meant receiving a 10% discount at the campus bookstore and the opportunity for a voucher to attend an SDSU football game.
Superintendent Ed Brand's speech
Each Sweetwater middle school has its own "Compact Advisors" who work through SDSU to assist students at their school sites, providing information, inspiration, encouragement and help. Today the Advisors held signs emblazoned with their schools' names as they shepherded their charges to their designated seating areas.
The Chula Vista High School of Creative and Performing Arts' Mariachi Chula Vista, under the direction of Mark Fogelquist, provided some energetic entertainment, followed by the smoother sounds of the SDSU Latin Jazz Quartet with Dan Reagan and Lorraine Castellanos. The guests were also thrilled to view slides recognizing each of the 12 schools projected on the gigantic "scoreboard" suspended in the center of the arena.
Dr. Lou Murillo, SDSU Compact for Success Director, welcomed the largest crowd to ever attend a 7th grade visit and recognized and thanked the staff and volunteers who work so hard to ensure that the event is a success.
SDSU's new president, Dr. Elliot Hirshman, sent his message via recording as he was visiting his own freshman son for parent weekend at the University of Virginia. Dr. Hirshman's practical advice included learn a new word every day, master algebra as soon as you can, and be nice to adults who are helping you along the way.
Now in its 12th year, these Compact for Success students are scheduled to graduate in 2021. Sweetwater Superintendent Dr. Edward Brand livened up the crowd by having the audience raise one arm and then the other and then clap their hands together to start their dreams today. He urged the students to pledge to go to and graduate from college and to seize the opportunity being presented to them.
Each 7th grade visit, the students are asked to sign the "I Pledge to go to College" banner to demonstrate their commitment to the Compact for Success. This year the banner was dramatically delivered as the SDSU Army ROTC program dropped from the catwalk overhead and rappelled to the floor carrying the banner. Halfway down, he stopped and tossed Army t-shirts out to animated 7th graders, before delivering the banner to the stage to be unfurled.
SDSU Army ROTC program delivers the "I Pledge to go to College" banner
Lead by the Compact Advisors, the students left the arena to head back to the heart of campus for three sessions of activities. They had their choice of a campus tour, a variety of workshops, an information fair or enjoying music and a DJ on the lawn on a beautiful fall morning.
Eight workshops were each repeated three times and included topics such as "Steps to College," "The College Experience," "Preparing for College Costs," "Exploring Careers," "Decades of College Dreams: AVID," 'From Sweetwater to Sweet Success," and "Bootcamp College."
Presenters included the Parent Institute for Quality Education, SDSU Residential Education, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Compact Scholars program, SDSU Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, San Diego County Office of Education, SDSU Associated Students, and Cal SOAP. Attendance at each workshop ranged from 45 to 100 eager participants.
Filled with information and Rubio's burritos, salsa and chips, the future class of 2021 Aztecs wended their way back to the parking lot to return to the school sites, ready to focus on making their now real dreams a reality.
Prior to the 7th grade visit the vendors, presenters, school board members, superintendents, visiting school district dignitaries, SDSU staff and volunteers were treated to a V.I.P. breakfast in the Viejas Arena mezzanine.
There Dr. James R. Kitchen, SDSU Vice President for Student Affairs confirmed SDSU's commitment to continuing the Compact for Success and even expanding efforts to include South Bay students to the elementary districts and community college district. This is the first year that San Ysidro's 7th grade students who attend San Ysidro High School in Sweetwater were included in the Compact and attended the 7th grade visit.
The first Compact Scholars graduated from SDSU in 2010 and Compact scholars were visible everywhere on campus, helping throughout the day. Not only is the 7th grade visit a symbol of commitment to future students, it is a tangible demonstration of the strengthening of community between San Diego State University and the region it serves.