Cheering Students to Higher Education

College Access Programs receive $1.38 million in renewed funding to continue programs that support underserved middle and high school students in San Francisco.

By Michele Kilmer, School of Education Posted Fri, 10/08/2021 - 15:37

For over 36 years, Joe Omega has worked with different College Access Programs, also known as CAPs, to inspire students toward college. They recently received notice that a renewal application that was submitted in February to the US Department of Education for the nationwide Educational Talent Search (ETS) program was successful. ETS programs are typically funded with a competitive renewal process every five years. USF CAPs program serves five hundred, first-generation, low-income students in three San Francisco Unified School District schools annually. Funding for the renewed grant started on September 1, 2021.

"We were on pins and needles for several months. We did not hear about our [renewal] funding until the last week of August. We are very excited because access to this funding is very competitive," said Omega.

Securing funding of $1.38 million to continue the program over the next five years is a massive win for the CAPs program. Still, mainly for the five hundred students a year, they will help by providing information and pre-collegiate and career counseling for high school students. For middle school students, the focus is slightly different.

"Our goal is to motivate or implant the seed of college as an opportunity and possibility, as well as to open their eyes to potential careers they might want to pursue," said Omega. "At grade eight, we start introducing concepts such as college prep classes and good grades."

The program is structured to serve approximately 150 middle schoolers, with the balance of students being in high school.

"With the high schoolers, it's making sure they are taking the right classes," said Omega, "Getting through those [application] requirements to apply for a UC, which also gives them access to CSU's but in most cases exceeds the requirements for private or smaller college institutions."

Getting kids to see themselves in higher education and to help with the practical technical needs of the application process is what CAPs is all about.

The grant is also an opportunity to include more of the USF community as Joe will hire USF school counseling graduate students as student advisors to work part-time in the schools. He will also hire students from the work-study program to support student advisors, assisting with activities and seminars that encourage first-generation and low-income students to get to college.

"I'm excited we are keeping this program alive at USF," said Omega. "We continue to search funding opportunities to improve our ability to reach out and serve more students in the community—so stay tuned”