For many Gauchos, March might have been the month they found out about their admission decisions to different colleges. Across the United States, high school seniors feel lost as to where and what their next four years should entail, while some also question the decision of attending college in light of the high tuition, even among public institutions.
For these students and their families, the Vietnamese Students Association and La Escuelita at the University of California, Santa Barbara can ease their worries and encourage success. Both organizations are open to all UCSB students, as well as anyone who desires to pursue a higher education.
“The VSA is a cultural organization … we provide an opportunity to students to find a home away from home and for them to find familiar faces.” Said Quan Le, the External Vice President and Philanthropy Chair of the VSA. “We host a lot of cultural events such as Lunar New Year, and we also have all-you-can-eat-Pho-night.”
For the prospective Gauchos, VSA offers an outreach program designed for all high school students to visit UCSB’s campus. With VSAs spread across every university campus in Southern California, the program “provides the students familiar faces no matter where they get accepted to,” said Le, a second year global studies major.
With the help of the Vietnamese Outreach Initiative in College Education (VOICE) program, low income high school students from Orange County are able to experience living at UC Santa Barbara.
“Through the VOICE program, we try to give them [high school students] the opportunity to understand their options. We reach out to them so they understand what their options are, such as the A through G requirements, and how they can afford college,” Le said.
Speaking of this year’s program in particular, Le said VOICE at UCSB has taken a major change for a more “thorough” experience for the high school students.
“This is the first year we are going to have it for two days and to have the students sleep over at Anacapa. We have them feel the dorm experience and see what it is like to be in college,” Le said.
Every spring quarter, La Escuelita and UCSB’s multicultural and academic fraternity Theta Nu Kappa work in collaboration to organize the Student Parent Conference (SPC). With participants of all backgrounds and grade levels, the conference aims to highlight different events, from guest speakers to scholarship opportunities to spaces for parents and guardians.
As a student organization, “our goal is to motivate students to pursue a higher education,” said Jaqueline Rodriguez, the co-chair of La Escuelita. “We want to increase the acceptance rate of first generation and AB540 (Dreamers) students to postsecondary institutions.”
At the SPC, La Escuelita hopes to foster “a sense of curiosity and interests within our students,” through which these students gain courage to further their academic career. With members who themselves were inspired to pursue a higher education, fourth year economics and accounting major Rodriguez said “we hope that in some way we can be the same figure to these young students.”
Similar to the VSA, La Escuelita provides workshops to answer questions regarding topics of general education, financial aid, and campus resources.
“It is our goal that [high school students] not only see the plausibility of pursuing a postsecondary education, but also have them see that they will not be alone when they attend university,” Rodriguez said, speaking of the importance of campus resources such as the Education Opportunity Program, Campus Learning Assistance Services, and the Transfer Student Center.
With approximately 70-90 attendees each year, Rodriguez anticipates around 80 attendees for this year’s SPC.
At last year’s SPC, La Escuelita invited sociology professor Victor Rios and education professor Rebeca Mireles-Rios as keynote speakers to describe their similar struggles to the attendees.
“As students walked out of the lecture hall … I heard one student tell one of their friends that they would like to be exactly like him too,” Rodriguez said about Victor Rios. “It is a very common comment, but I think what makes it special is that when they look at Professor [Victor] Rios, they see themselves.”
Though La Escuelita identifies itself as a non-Latino based organization, Rodriguez thought “like so many other leaders who are people of color, they reassure us that despite any barriers that come our way, it is possible to overcome them.”
Le and Rodriguez think that it is crucial for current college students to introduce themselves, pass on their stories, and be their role models.
“No matter what background we come from, we all had someone there cheering us on, giving us the confidence that we could achieve more. No matter what age we are, we should embody our role models and be the leaders to our younger generations,” said Rodriguez.