Es El Momento
Feria de Educación aims to improve academic achievement for Latino families.
Children laughing as they dressed up like doctors, firefighters and engineers. Local celebrities and elected officials reading to eager listeners. Free books, festive music, great food and workshops that covered financial aid, college preparation, campus tours and family academic engagement. That’s what participants found when they flooded the Sacramento State campus for Sacramento’s first Feria de Educación (education fair) on August 24, 2013.
Building on the immense success of previous Latino-focused education fairs hosted by California State University, Dominguez Hills, which attract upwards of 35,000 students and their families, officials gained support from Chancellor Timothy White within the California State University system to expand the event to Northern California. A partnership between Sacramento State, Univision 19 and Assemblymember Roger Dickinson’s office brought that vision to life.
“We have a large and growing Latino population in the Sacramento region so hopefully this is a way to attract them to the Sacramento State campus,” explains Assemblymember Dickinson, whose district includes the university. “From the moment we talked about this event it wasn’t a question of, ‘Should we do this?’ Everybody said ‘Let’s figure out how to do this’.”
Filling the Gap
Projections indicate that California is facing a shortfall of 1 million college graduates. “We need to fill that gap,” says Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez. With Latinos expected to make up 48% of California’s population by 2060, Latino access to education is critical to California’s economic future. “Our big goal is to cultivate and build a culture of college readiness in every community we serve,” explains President Gonzalez. “We can help by providing basic information about what it takes to get into Sacramento State or another CSU.”
By 2030, there will be 9.6 million Latinos in the prime working ages of 25 to 64. By 2060, there will be 12.1 million, the largest group in the working ages by a considerable margin.
— California Department of Finance
Event organizers aim to improve academic achievement among K-12 students as well as increase rates of high school graduation, college readiness, college completion and parental engagement. Although the event featured a wealth of information about educational achievement with financial aid seminars, information on college preparation, tours of the Sacramento State campus and representatives from other colleges, it was so much more than a traditional college fair. Organizers sought to educate parents about how to navigate the California education system and help their children succeed in school.
Engaging the Entire Family
“It is not a lack of desire, but rather a lack of information,” says Dr. Viridiana Diaz, director of the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at Sacramento State. “Parents want a better future for their children but understanding the educational system in our state can be very challenging. The educational system in California is significantly different than in many Latin American countries, in particular as students reach high school and college. This event had a single goal in mind — to bridge the cultural gap between Spanish-speaking parents and California’s education system.”
To engage the entire family in each child’s academic success, the event offered activities and information for students of all ages as well as their parents. “We wanted the event to be fun, exciting and intellectually stimulating. And along the way parents and children could pick up information on how to get into college,” says President Gonzalez. “It’s never too early for families to start preparing for higher education.”
In the visualization booth, participants had a chance to see themselves in different occupations by dressing up in career-oriented uniforms or by peering through canvases hand-painted by Sacramento State CAMP student Erika Perez. “When children are able to visualize, and even feel what it may be like to be a professional, it generates a motivation to take steps to attain that life,” says Diaz. “I think that was a very impactful and purposeful activity for students and their families.”
Organizers were also excited to see children huddled up in the Reading Garden sponsored by Univision 19. To promote the importance of family reading, “a lot of our on-air talent and some elected officials
read aloud,” says Steven R. Stuck, vice president and general manager of Univision 19. “The idea is to set the example for parents that they need to engage in these activities with their children.” The Consulate General of Mexico in Sacramento filled the Reading Garden with Spanish and English picture books and textbooks and attendees were invited to snag a free book to encourage reading at home.
Creating a Comfort Zone
Gladys Martinez-Glaude, a program manager with the College of Continuing Education’s Conference and Training Services Unit, worked on the logistics to make the user experience as easy and comfortable as possible.
“My mom didn’t know any of this,” says Martinez-Glaude in reference to her own college experience. “She didn’t know the paperwork, the applications. It wasn’t done as a family. It’s not easy when you don’t speak the language. It can be very intimidating.”
To welcome attendees unfamiliar with, and perhaps uncomfortable in, a university setting Martinez-Glaude and other committee members focused on the community’s background and specific needs.
“If this event gets one kid in college, out of the 6,500 people who attended, that will be a win for me.”
— Gladys Martinez-Glaude
“I thought about how to handle long lines so we wouldn’t have people waiting. What size rooms we should use to give participants the best one-on-one conversations and access to the speaker after each workshop. How to incorporate signs to let people know just how many activities are going on in the University Union. This matters when we’re trying to get people involved and empower them,” explains Martinez-Glaude. “If this event gets one kid in college, out of the 6,500 people who attended, that will be a win for me.”
It will also be a win for many local families and the future of California.
“The seed needs to be planted in the student, and in their families, early on,” says Diaz. “There are steps that will either put the student on track to college or not. After attending these workshops we saw participants walk away with valuable information on how to better prepare for college, apply for financial aid and scholarships, explore career options, and engage their parents in the college process.”
“We want everyone to know that the dream of a college degree is within reach,” says President Gonzalez, “and that we are here to help them achieve this dream. It all begins with getting a good education.
Written by Asha Jennings