Local seventh graders set sights on college

Seventh graders from around Santa Cruz County listen to presentations at the Stevenson Event Center during their daylong visit to the UC Santa Cruz campus.

Half of Santa Cruz County’s seventh graders – more than 1,400 – attended the 7th Grade College and Career Summit on campus on Friday, March 20.

The annual visit is part of the Santa Cruz County College Commitment (S4C) — a collaboration between California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB), Cabrillo College, local school districts, and UC Santa Cruz. The remaining half will attend a similar event at CSUMB next month. 

For many students, the field trip is their first time on a college campus and an experience that makes a lasting impact.

“The goal is to ensure all Santa Cruz County students understand how best to prepare for their future and to know we are right here in their backyard,” said UC Santa Cruz Associate Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management Michelle Whittingham.

The pilot project began in May 2013 when 300 seventh-graders from across Santa Cruz County were welcomed to the UCSC campus. The goal was to provide an opportunity for students to explore college majors most relevant to their interests, and to see first-hand what their future studies might look like. 

Results were so positive that the event was expanded to include every seventh grader in the county. In spring 2014, the full program launched, and all 3,000 seventh-grade students in Santa Cruz County visited either UC Santa Cruz or CSUMB. 

“We were so pleased to see both their confidence level and their knowledge of required courses increase,” Whittingham said.

While on campus, students, teachers, and parent volunteers learned about courses students need to be eligible for college and ways to prepare, engaged with current UCSC students in a panel format, and attended a closing session to review what they had learned during the day.

Throughout the day, the middle school students were able to imagine what it would be like to attend college and learned specific steps on how to get there.