UCLA Offers Programs to Help Students Who Need it Most

Garineh Demirjian

Community colleges serve a large, diverse population, which includes a low-income and first-generation community. Some of these students may fear that even if they try their best and work hard, they will never succeed in reaching a university.

However, there is hope. A program offered through the University of California is an opportunity worth investigating.

The Center for Community College Partnerships (CCCP) was established in 2001 by the College of Letters and Science under the Division of Undergraduate Education at UCLA. The center is responsible for developing and strengthening academic partnerships between UCLA and California community colleges, particularly those with large under-represented student populations.

When Santiago Bernal, Assistant Director at CCCP was asked why he felt it necessary to have such a center and why it’s important to reach underrepresented, under-served, and low-income students, he said, “These groups often are left out from a meaningful education and have less access to top universities. Besides institutional barriers, lack of resources and transfer culture at the community college, many students from these groups do not see UCLA as a real option. It is our goal to create a transfer culture.”

“Also [it fills a need] because of the large number of students who transfer from community colleges and the low transfer rates from some community colleges to the university and to UCLA.”

To further CCCP’s goal of reaching a specific group of students it offers several summer programs in order to get transfer students involved and informed. Such programs are Summer Intensive Transfer Experience (SITE), Summer Transfer Enrichment Program (STEP) and Summer Transfer Program (STP).

SITE, according to the CCCP website, is a six-day residential program that will teach students how to navigate the community college system; complete the appropriate coursework; and maximize their time in order to make a smooth, quick and successful transition to a University of California campus.

GCC student Ani Koussayan, who attended SITE this past summer, had nothing but good things to say about the program.

“Being part of SITE was an extremely rewarding experience,” said Koussayan. “The peer mentors and all the staff involved provided me with the tools necessary to succeed in college and life in general.”

“My favorite part of SITE was the opportunity to build connections with inspiring people and learn about their anecdotes and experiences in life,” she said.

“I was fascinated with the way I was able to relate with the peer mentors and all the students. I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone as you will find the motivation to grow as an individual and take an active role in your education.”

The Summer Transfer Program offers students a free summer course at UCLA. It is a six-week lower-division class. A commuter program, it covers the cost of the course, registration fees, books and, if needed, transportation expenses. Students must participate in a supplementary program on specific days, which include mentoring, workshops, tutoring and study sessions.

STEP, according to the CCCP website, is a six-day residential program that prepares students who are close to transferring with the skills to complete the appropriate coursework and assist them with the application process.

In addition, students receive individual advising and personal assistance to complete the application and personal statement. Students can explore their career options, graduate school and financial resources available to them. The program will introduce students to research opportunities, the demands of University writing, and the many support programs available. The program will focus on resources available to African-American students.

About the selection process for summer programs, Bernal said, “We review the application and select students who would benefit most from the program, usually students from underserved, socio-economic backgrounds who many not have achieved at the highest level but who have a serious interest in their academic development.”

What is the success rate of these summer programs in assisting students in the transfer process? According to Bernal, “Students who have participated in our programs and have applied to UCLA usually transfer at about a 71 percent rate to UCLA and most of these students are admitted to one of the UCs. Our numbers for underrepresented transfer students has been steadily increasing both in applications and admits.”

Aside from the summer programs CCCP offers peer mentors to most Southern California community colleges. These peer mentors visit their designated campuses each semester to provide students with information, support and encouragement to spread the word about the center.

Elvia Zepeda is the peer mentor for GCC; she visited the campus twice a week in the transfer center during the fall semester in order to be available to all students. As product of a student who attended the S.I.T.E. program before she transferred, it has made her a stronger peer mentor for UCLA.

“After S.I.T.E., CCCP was my support system as I was underwent the application process to UCs. Once I transferred to UCLA, I decided to become part of CCCP as a Peer Mentor. The peer mentor at my community college was instrumental in my transferring process and I wanted to do for others what CCCP and my Peer Mentor had done for me. I do not know where I would be right now if I had not participated in S.I.T.E,” said Zepeda.

When asked if she sees a benefit for students from her visits to Glendale she said, “This is my third year as Peer Mentor for CCCP and through this experience I see how important is it for students to feel that someone believes in them.”

“My biggest role as peer mentor is to both motivate and believe in my students, while demystifying the transfer process to a UC. I also see the benefit of the one-on-one interaction with students, because it gives me better access to motivate and encourage them to transfer.”

Koussayan frequently visits Zepeda when she is on campus because, “Elvia serves as a great source of guidance. She has been helping me with matters regarding the transfer process, especially with the process of applying to four-year universities,” said Koussayan.

When asked how a peer mentor is able to assist her in ways that a counselor can’t Koussayan said, “Elvia is able to offer an insight that is different from a counselor’s perspective. Being a student herself, most people that attend a community college could relate to her experience. She was a community college student, just like we are now, who was able to transfer to one of the most popular universities in the state, UCLA.”

The Center also runs the University of California Transfer Opportunity Program (UCTOP), which is an aggressive phone calling campaign to encourage community college students to consider transferring to a UC Campus. Transfer students are hired to phone community college students with demonstrated potential for success in the UC system and to visit specific community colleges to meet prospective transfer students.

To speak with a current UCTOP transfer student, call (310) 794-4780.

For further information about CCCP or any of their programs visit http://www.ugeducation.ucla.edu/aap/cccp or call (310) 267-4441.

The hours of operation are Monday through Friday. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.