When the tour guide at USC asked if anyone had any questions, a humble hand went up and asked, “what percent of students here are Latino?” The curious mind was disappointed when the honest tour guide responded, “Too low, less than 15%.” At this point, my student turned to me and said, “Mr. G, we need to change that.” This is the fuel that we try and instill in all of our students here at Equipo Academy, a public charter school that focuses on getting students to and through the college of their dreams.
Our school is located in the heart of East Las Vegas and serves a working class community of predominantly immigrants families. As educators, we try to provide our students and their families with the resources they need for more opportunities, resources that are already afforded to affluent neighborhoods.
One example of how these opportunities are developed is reflected in a commitment to giving our students experiences that prepare them for their future, like visiting college campuses. Every grade level goes on a different field trip, visiting a unique city like Claremont, San Francisco, Washington D.C., or New York. We accompany our students to numerous locations so that they are exposed to all facets of careful decision-making, encouraging them to trust their own voices as they begin choosing the right college for them. We hope seeing so many different schools will enable them to make a better choice if they decide to further their education.
Our eighth graders are fortunate enough to visit several Los Angeles-area centers of higher learning, among them UCLA, USC, Occidental, Cal State LA and Mount Saint Mary’s. When we ask our donors to help sponsor these tours, we explain the powerful feeling students get when they step foot on a college campus creating a connection between their everyday efforts in their rigorous classes and their future. While touring the campuses, Equipo Academy students eat in the school dining hall and speak with students currently enrolled there.
We make sure that our junior and senior high students are able to interact with college students from similar backgrounds or with whom they share a cultural identity. These field trips are meant to inspire our young scholars and motivate them to one day matriculate into college, becoming another educated person of color in our society who has helped make the “less than 15%” figure a thing of the past.
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