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USF School Counseling Students Coach High Schoolers to Higher College Enrollment Levels

06-19-2014
Western Addition Counseling

USF school counseling student Dani Keerikoolparn '15 (right) reviews a high school junior's college application before it's submitted. 

USF school counseling students are leading the charge to increase college enrollment among San Francisco students from low-income and immigrant families by providing free counseling in public high schools.

They’ve helped raise college enrollment rates among seniors in the national GEAR UP program to 71 percent compared to just 53 percent for non-GEAR UP seniors, records show.

USF school counseling students have also partnered with the Upward Bound math and science program for disadvantaged students on campus to offer high school juniors career assessment and counseling advice, as they begin the college application process.

Opening doors 

“It’s been a phenomenal success for seniors at Raoul Wallenberg Traditional High School and other San Francisco high schools where 30-50 USF graduate students volunteer each year,” said Christine Yeh, USF professor of counseling psychology. Yeh leads the USF School of Education’s partnership with San Francisco Unified School District GEAR UP — a nationally funded program created to open doors for underserved students interested in pursuing an education beyond high school by providing tutoring, counseling, grants, and parent outreach.

One-on-one with 450 who need tutoring

Since 2009, USF counseling students have volunteered more than 450 hours leading one-on-one and group sessions with disadvantaged San Francisco high school students in GEAR UP and similar programs focusing on seniors, who drop out at three times the rate of juniors. 

“Our students help the seniors, many of whom are the first in their family to apply to college, develop a plan for their future, tutor them on how to write a personal statement for college applications, and counsel them on how to apply for financial aid,” Yeh said.

College application rate shows dramatic jump

Wallenberg senior Briana Tran, a first generation college applicant, worked with USF counseling students to craft a personal statement about her passion for graphic design. This spring, she was admitted to a handful of UC and Cal State colleges and chose the University of California, Los Angeles. 

“I think the USF school counseling students really steered me in the right direction,” Tran said. “And I really appreciated them taking the time to help me.”

Wallenberg GEAR UP coordinator Diana Alvarez believes bringing in USF graduate students benefits everyone. “The high school students stay in school and apply to college at dramatically better rates, and the USF students are able to work in an environment very similar to where they’re likely to be hired after they graduate,” Alvarez said.

'I know the same difficulties'

USF’s Juan Rodriguez MA ’15 agrees. "Helping these students has been an amazing experience,” he said. “One student I talked with plans to be the first in her family to attend college and told me about her struggles. It was especially meaningful because I’m also a first generation immigrant like her and know some of the same difficulties.”

The School of Education’s free school counseling is part of the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Justice and the Common Good’s Engage San Francisco program, created to support education, health care, and research in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood.

by Ed Carpenter | Office of Communications and Marketing »email usfnews@usfca.edu | Twitter @usfcanews