San Jacinto Unified School District celebrated countywide College Kickoff event district wide, Oct. 11

Assistant Principal Matt Norris leads Park Hill Elementary students in cheers for college. Courtesy photo

SAN JACINTO – The San Jacinto Unified School District held its annual College Kickoff, Oct. 11, as part of the Riverside County College Kickoff Day events. College Kickoff is an opportunity to promote the college application season and help students throughout Riverside County recognize the importance of planning for their college and career endeavors. San Jacinto Unified is committed to ensuring that all students graduate college and career ready. All 14 schools participated in activities promoting college and career, enabling all students to start thinking about post-secondary plans, including two- and four-year college, trade school and the military.

At the high school level, seniors focused on completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the California Dream Act, as well as completing a college application. Seniors at San Jacinto High School who plan on joining the military had sessions with recruiters to prepare for the next steps. School counselor Justin Ryan at Mountain View High School encouraged students to use the day to get ready for what they really want to do and to complete the FAFSA so they won’t limit their opportunities simply for lack of funds.

Jordan Thom, one of the San Jacinto High School seniors, said she completed the FAFSA form when it was made available Oct. 1.

“I’m most excited to have time to work on my applications to University of California schools today,” Thom said. “Finishing my personal insight questions is my goal for today’s college-emphasis time.”

Students in grades nine through 11 at both the district’s high schools took the Preliminary SAT and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test and participated in college and career activities.

“Taking the PSAT has definitely narrowed down what to study (for the SAT) and made me realize what I don’t know and what is really easy for me,” San Jacinto High sophomore Abel Buenrostos said. “I also realize that eating, getting a lot of sleep and time management is key for taking the SAT because every section is timed, and it can be hard to manage,” Buenrostos said.

The district’s Nutrition Services Department served a breakfast snack for each San Jacinto High student in classrooms throughout the campus.

“We know how important it is for students to eat before testing, and we packaged 2,700 to-go meals and gathered all our staff to execute fast delivery this morning,” Director Tammy White said. Her team wore their favorite college shirts at the central kitchen, keeping up with the districtwide expectation that every staff member supports College Kickoff Day.

Dr. Vanessa Gomez-Lee, SJUSD’s lead counselor said, “SJUSD had college and career activities at all middle and elementary schools for the kickoff event, because planting the seed in all our students to start thinking about future possibilities can be a predictor of student success after high school.”

At North Mountain Middle School, Principal Gil Rodriguez and his team held grade-level assemblies for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students. Students formed teams for a game that focused on understanding what high school classes are required, labeled A through G, to be eligible for a California state university.

Advancement Via Individual Determination tutors and college students from nearby Mt. San Jacinto College shared their advice during the assemblies about preparing for college, especially for those students that want to be in college athletics.

Park Hill Elementary School students began their school day with an enthusiastic pep assembly where the school’s mascot, Bryson the Bison, was on hand to help cheer with the students as Assistant Principal Matt Norris pointed out all the various colleges and universities attended by Park Hill staff.

“Friendly competition is good between colleges,” Norris said. “My school was San Diego State, and I’m challenging kindergarten teacher Mrs. Lopez, who went to Boise State, that my football team will beat her team this Saturday, or she can put a pie in my face.” The students all cheered and giggled at these remarks. Other activities at the elementary included students completing an “I’m going to college” pledge as part of the day’s classroom lessons.

Included in the count of 14 schools at San Jacinto Unified participating in College Kickoff Day was San Jacinto Preschool, located off Grand Army Street.

“We can’t start too early in sharing the bright future for students to attend college,” Preschool Director Liz Zaragoza said. “Our message at preschool is also for parents, telling them now that their child deserves to go to college.”

“We were ready for the challenge from the Riverside County to promote college and career readiness at San Jacinto Unified,” Diane Perez, SJUSD superintendent, said. “This is our vision for all our students, and celebrating College Kickoff Day on every campus, from our preschools to high schools, signifies our commitment to preparing all students to be successful as they choose their own unique future.”

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