Making that Big Step to College

Posted in Learning

After dropping off his nine-year-old brother Tyler at school, junior Prynce-Rahyeem Martin makes the long walk from Ocean View Elementary to his first-period Step to College class.
There, Martin learns what to expect from college, how to prepare for it, what should be in and how to write personal statements, how to apply for scholarships, and what it’s like in a college classroom setting.
Martin is one of the 27 students in the Step to College course, sponsored by San Francisco State University, and being offered again this year during the regular school day — unfortunately only first period.
“Two years ago it was held after school, but due to sports and other extracurricular activities they had to make it during school time,” said counselor Tedra Grogans.

Junior Jaime Banegas and his Step to College Classmates

Junior Jaime Banegas and his Step to College classmates

Martin and his classmates also learn about many unexpected topics like identity and positionality. Identity is one of the big topics in class discussion. Identity has a lot of meanings ,but in the Step to College context it is your name, ability, age, sexuality, gender, faith, religion, ethnicity, and class. The class also discuss positionality and how it can influence what we know. Positionality is very similar to identity; it is defined as the important aspects of identity such as gender, race, class, and age.
“I do think it is worth taking this class — you talk about yourself and you discover yourself and that’s really good for the future,” said Martin.
Step to College is designed to promote higher education among underrepresented minorities and low-income students who would not have the opportunity or means to attend college. This program is a collaboration between public high schools and and the Graduate College of Education at San Francisco State.
In addition to motivating young people to realize their educational goals, students in this program also earn college credits while in high school at no cost. This program aims to increase high school graduation rates, and help low-income students transition into higher education. Students learn the necessary skills to transition from high school to the university.

Juniors Wajiha Zahid (L) and Karin Pal

Juniors Wajiha Zahid and Karin Pal

The course at Albany High is taught by SFSU lecturer Raynell Crews-Gamez. She loves teaching the class because they can cover topics that are not traditionally covered in a regular class setting and she also loves to hear her students’ stories as they prepare to write their personal statements.
Crews-Gamez expects the students to act like college students and show up to class on time prepared, do the homework, and be able to share any past experiences and participate in any discussion.
“I would like my students to walk away from this class with confidence. I want them to be secure in who they are, and how they can contribute to a college environment,” Crews-Gamez said.
“I also want them to be clear on what the process is for applying to college and with the knowledge they need to make a good choice about the college that is right for them,” she continued.
The class also participates in an activity called Storytelling. During Storytelling the class listens to a song, which can be any song. As the class is listening to the song they pick out and write the verses that stand out the most and that can relate to identity in any way, including class, faith, nationality, gender, sexuality, name or ability.

Juniors Manyi Leung (L) and Eleonor Palabrica

Juniors Manyi Leung (L) and Eleonor Palabrica

“I took this class to be better prepared for college and grow in learning how to write a college-level paper,“ said junior Ellie Roche.
Thus far writing in the class has focused on practice personal statements. A personal statement is a student’s opportunity to tell colleges about yourself, showing them why you deserve to go to that college and what separates you from the rest of the students. Statements often cover your hopes, ambitions, life experiences, and inspirations all in one paper.
“We hope to keep this class going and as long as San Francisco State is willing to have us and fund it, we will keep it going,” said Grogans.