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On Oct. 18, UCR Vice Chancellor James Sandoval visited Perris High School in Perris to kickoff “Achieve UC,” a systemwide initiative that informs teenagers about the financial options available to them when pursuing higher education in the UC system.

The program was started by UC President Mark Yudof who, after visiting a disadvantaged high school in Northern California, implored each UC to join a systemwide outreach program. High school teachers, counselors and UC administration now work together to educate students about financial aid, course selection and the overall importance of a college education. “What Achieve UC really is doing for us is giving us an opportunity to better publicize the programs that we have here at UCR,” stated Vice Chancellor Sandoval in an interview with the Highlander.

Achieve UC reinforces UCR’s mission statement of “…[being] guided by its land grant tradition of giving back by addressing some of the most vexing problems facing society.” Vice Chancellor Sandoval described this endeavor as “…an opportunity to promote, in a much bigger way, the opportunities that exist at the University of California, and UC Riverside in particular.” High school students gain critical exposure to UC affiliates who provide them with more information about pursuing higher education. Students interested in obtaining a UC education work with counselors and a UC representative to create the next steps in their plans for higher education.

With costs rising due to state divestment, one of the main concerns of prospective students is obtaining enough financial aid to offset the severe cost of attendance. Vice Chancellor Sandoval said, “because of the increase in tuition, a lot of the families are of the opinion that they can’t go to a UC, just because it’s too expensive.” However, the program advocates awareness of financial aid and assistance, while providing other options such as academic grants and scholarships to overcome financial barriers.

Although the program is a UC-wide initiative, UCR is creating a more involved, hands-on approach. In fact, the vice chancellor’s work with high school students stretches back to the 1990s. It was a time, “when administration recognized the need to stay in touch with local schools,” stated Sandoval. UCR also offers other outreach programs that include campus tours and tutoring for local middle and high school students in the Riverside community. These programs help to reinforce Achieve UC’s mission of serving the local schools in the Riverside community, particularly those in disadvantaged areas.

Compared to other outreach programs, Achieve UC does not rely on financial support and is solely based on the use of time to sustain the program. “It’s not a tremendous amount of overhead. It’s time, you know, sitting down with the students and talking with them and conveying what we know,” said Sandoval. The program is also an example of California schools working together to create educational opportunities.

For Sandoval, it is time well spent. When asked about the rewards of the program he listed “…[being able] to convey to the school administrators that… we recognize that the K-12 system has really been under siege, and that it really is… an under appreciated job. The second [reward], of course, is just the opportunity to help students understand that their college dreams can in fact become a reality. And just seeing those eyes open up-restoring some faith and belief in themselves, and the fact that they can go to college.”

Although each campus participates in Achieve UC, the program’s immediate future is unclear. “The long term goal is to continue to motivate, inform and hopefully to encourage everyone who is contributing to the success of our youth, to give them the tools that they need in order to achieve standards for admission to the University of California,” said Sandoval.