The Student News Site of Henry M. Gunn High School

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The Student News Site of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

The Student News Site of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

AVID, College Pathways students visit University of California, Santa Cruz

Photo+courtesy+of+Courtney+Carlomagno
Photo courtesy of Courtney Carlomagno

On Jan. 24, students from the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) class and College Pathways programs embarked on a full-day trip to the University of California, Santa Cruz to immerse themselves in a college environment.

Assistant Principal Courtney Carlomagno, counselors Myesha Dickson and Lorenzo Gomez, English teacher Danielle Whichard, and Gunn’s Safety and Family Specialist Joey Ordonez (non-chaperoning) organized the trip, which consisted of a UCSC tour and a presentation on UC college admissions.

This year marked the resumption of the programs’ college visits after a temporary hiatus due to the pandemic. Students had previously explored the University of San Francisco and San Francisco State University in the fall.

Taught by Whichard, the AVID elective course closes the achievement gap and prepares students for college. Run by Dickson and Gomez, the College Pathways Program is geared towards supporting first-generation students who will be the first in their families to attend college. 20 students from AVID and 30 students from the College Pathways Program participated in the college visit, which aligned with both programs’ purposes: to initiate the college research process early and equip students with information to plan their futures.

Sophomore Keefe Aidan Punzalan, who attended the trip, joined AVID to better prepare himself for and understand what to expect in college and beyond. Gunn’s college visits have served as stepping stones for his academic journey.

“Visits like this make me less scared of what to expect in universities and provide the necessary perspective to understand campus life and attending classes,” Aidan Punzalan said. “I managed to strike up conversations with a few of the college students. They gave me all kinds of input on what elements they do and do not enjoy (in college).”

Led by a UCSC guide, students learned about the school’s expectations, culture, housing situations and student life. A presentation by a UCSC admissions representative also provided students with a glimpse into UC college admissions, according to Carlomagno.

“(The admissions presenter) shared a lot of great insight with our students about what exactly they’re looking for, and how it’s not always about grades, but about other things that students are involved in, such as programs like AVID,” Whichard said.

The tour and presentation were followed by lunch in the cafeteria and UCSC student-led visits to the Art Building, libraries and museum. UCSC dining hall staff even brought out their ice cream machine for the visiting students, according to Aiden Punzalan.

Coordinators typically solidify fall college visit plans before summer break. In December, prior to winter break, the team decides on spring college visit timings and then reaches out to the colleges. However, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted this process.

“We could have started last year, but it was hard to get back into the routine of planning trips,” Whichard said. “The way college campuses run their tours has gotten more strict, and we ran into an issue last year where we weren’t finding availability for a big group.”

Aiming to expose students to a wide variety of universities, the team plans to schedule one last trip to a community college before the end of this school year, according to Carlomagno.

“We chose UCSC, a University of California school because we’d done a California State University and a private school in the fall,” she said. “We try to offer all the different types of schools, so students have a good idea of the difference in colleges, and can make their own informed decision based on their experience when they do apply.”

Gomez hopes that visits like these can assure students that college is an achievable goal.

“Being able to provide information to these students in these programs on Gunn campus, and then actually visiting a college campus puts everything that we preach (into perspective) and paints a picture of the reality of how higher education looks like,” he said. “We hope that you pursue it.”

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About the Contributor
Sylvie Nguyen, Business Manager
Sophomore Sylvie Nguyen is a reporter for The Oracle. In her free time, she enjoys trying new foods and spending time at the beach.
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