University of California San Diego Extension has entered into a unique partnership with both the Sycuan Education Department and the Viejas Tribal Education Center to provide college preparatory programs as part of a larger effort to boost college enrollment among young adults in underrepresented communities. The partnership is designed to enhance the programs that the tribal education centers already offer by providing middle and high school students the opportunity to explore the UC San Diego campus as well as attend UC San Diego Extension’s innovative college-prep summer courses in Arizona, New Mexico, Hawaii and Washington D.C.
Councilman Gabriel T. TeSam of the Viejas Tribe said both tribes are working on a strategic plan to help Native American students enter college and graduate school, and this partnership will go a long way to further its goals of increasing college enrollment in his tribe.
“We are trying to create a college-going culture. This new partnership will help our students not only see the opportunities that college affords but also help them seize those opportunities,” said TeSam. “UC San Diego Extension worked closely with us to ensure the programs matched the needs of our students and our community.”
Nubia Ford, director of the Sycuan Education Department, said a college education will help prepare the students she works with for leadership opportunities now and in the future.
“We are developing the next generation of leaders, and a college degree is an important component of creating students not only of our culture but of the world,” Ford said. “This program will help us preserve our traditions while allowing us to better serve our community and the community around us.”
Ed Abeyta, assistant dean for community engagement and director of pre-collegiate and career preparations for UC San Diego Extension, said working with the Sycuan and Viejas tribes is part of UC San Diego’s larger goal to reach out to communities throughout the region to ensure the campus is a true reflection of what makes San Diego unique.
“UC San Diego Extension has a clear mission: We are here to connect the campus to the community,” Abeyta said. “All of the K-12 programs we offer are part of the broader effort to engage every community in the region to help strengthen our university and San Diego.”
As part of the program, high school students in both the Viejas and Sycuan tribes will attend summer courses within the UC San Diego Extension’s Global Environmental Leadership and Sustainability Program, which includes week-long courses at Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Ariz. as well as in Los Alamos, N.M., Hilo and Kona, Hawaii, and Washington, D.C. Students will also participate in Academic Connections, a three-week residential program on the UC San Diego campus, which is designed to prepare students for college success.
On June 21, Viejas and Sycuan will send eight students to Arizona to take part in the Biosphere 2 program, which teaches about the effects of climate change through hands-on learning and experiments. Going forward, all the high school students will have the opportunity to attend one of the summer programs depending on their grade level. UC San Diego Extension will also offer prep classes for college entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT.
“We are partnering with UC San Diego to build a pathway to college,” said TeSam. “These summer courses will offer a wealth of experiences and opportunities, and it will also provide our students with a fantastic resume as they apply to college.”
“This partnership is a perfect fit. We have a real need and UC San Diego Extension had the programs to fill that need,” Ford said.
Currently, the Viejas Tribal Education Center serves 130 students from Kindergarten to 12th grade and the Sycuan Tribal Education Center serves 75 students in those same grades.