School Beat: Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) at UC Berkeley

by Teresa Arriaga on January 29, 2009

Education is often viewed as the gateway to opportunity in the United States. With an education, individuals reach their potential, great ideas come to fruition and sometimes entire communities are improved as both a direct and indirect result of its members receiving a strong education. In this country, earning a college degree has become critical, as the economy has moved away from service and labor jobs.

California has long been credited for having an excellent and affordable public system of higher education that includes California Community Colleges, California State Universities (CSU) and the University of California (UC). Indeed California provides a road map to CSU and UC for high school students – if students succeed in a specific college-going course pattern (called A-G), and attain a specified grade point average (GPA) and test scores on college entrance exams, then he or she is guaranteed admission to the UC and/or CSU system.

The California Master Plan for Higher Education guarantees admission to the public university systems, but many students remain unable to gain access to both public and private colleges and universities. This is especially true in low-income communities and communities of color where college going rates continue to be far less than average.

While acknowledging the importance of college admissions, many of California’s public high schools must focus on basic academic skill development as measured by student passage of the CAHSEE (California’s high school exit exam) and other standardized tests. Additionally, high school counselor caseloads are at record highs, sometimes exceeding a 600:1 ratio. Therefore counselors are forced to focus almost solely on the most immediate and pressing needs of students leaving scant time for proactive college planning. All of this holds especially true in California’s most challenged schools, where academic achievement and college-going rates are low, where the students come from the lowest income families, and where the promise of a college education truly does open doors for individuals, families and whole communities.

Better understanding of this problem has led to the rise of college access programs in recent years. The Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) at the University of California is one of the oldest of such programs. For over thirty years, EAOP has helped low-income high school students prepare for college by creating a community of young scholars and offering college-preparatory enrichment programs and academic advising, thus creating the opportunity for them to be the first in their families to attend college.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, EAOP from UC Berkeley partners with twenty public high schools. At each school, highly skilled EAOP staff work with school site personnel to further college going among its students. EAOP offers professional development to administrators, teachers and counselors regarding A-G coursework, college applications, UC personal statements and financial aid. EAOP assists with college nights and career fairs. At each school, EAOP leads regular group workshops and individual academic advising to students enrolled in the program. Advising topics are grade-appropriate and include college entrance requirements, competitive eligibility for universities and colleges, exploring college options, financial aid information and college application and UC personal statements. Each EAOP students devises his or her Individual Academic Plan, updated yearly, to stay on track for college admissions.

In addition to partnering with schools and students, EAOP strives to educate parents and family members about the importance of a college education as well as provide information about how to gain admission and be successful once in college. EAOP offers multi-lingual parent and family workshops and college-going materials.

Outside of school, EAOP helps students develop strong academic skills by offering summer and Saturday programs. Each program is specifically designed to offer both academic rigor and support appropriate to first generation college-goers. Each year EAOP offers a free ten-week SAT Academy to its juniors. In the summer, EAOP enrolls students in UC/CSU transferable courses at local California Community Colleges as well as courses at UC Berkeley Summer Sessions.

In addition, EAOP has offered its Pre-College Academy (PCA) on the UC Berkeley campus for over twenty years. Part academic enrichment, part summer camp – PCA is a rigorous academic experience for all. UC Berkeley staff, lecturers and graduate students as well as California high school teachers teach courses. Each course is designed to both invigorate the student by instilling a love of learning, and to prepare him or her for success the following academic year. Throughout the summer, students are engaged in team building and leadership development opportunities that help round out their skills while building community.

EAOP employs UC Berkeley undergraduate and graduate students to work in its Partner Schools and with PCA and Summer Sessions. Often these high achieving young people come from similar backgrounds as the EAOP students, thus offering mentorship and a real life understanding of both the struggles and achievements of first generation college students.

EAOP has been a consistent and active presence at its Partner Schools and surrounding communities for many years. With thousands of alumni who have since graduated from college, EAOP serves as a model of school-university partnerships while providing the support students need to reach their full potential.

Teresa Arriaga is the Director of the EAOP at UC Berkeley and is also an SFUSD parent with a daughter at Creative Arts Charter School and a son in preschool.

Filed under: Archive