May 24, 2016

In their second joint meeting, the Governing Boards of East County’s college and high school districts set new priorities to expand and develop the East County Education Alliance, the 2-year-old partnership to better prepare high school students for college and a career.

The Alliance was created in 2014 by the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District and the Grossmont Union High School District to smooth the transition between high school and college. The Alliance has begun promoting the Higher Edge scholarship, which will offer a free year of classes at Grossmont or Cuyamaca College to qualifying high school graduates, beginning with the class 2019.

The May 17 meeting was held to review the progress made and to set priorities for the Alliance. A new coordinator, Jesse Enriquez, was recently hired to lead the work of the Alliance and develop plans for the Higher Edge scholarship promise. Board members also approved priorities for the Alliance, which include expansion of the Alliance partnership; better alignment of high school and college curriculum; improved career pathways for students; and engaging the East County community in supporting the work of the Alliance.

“The Alliance is a true partnership between our two districts to ensure students are educated and prepared for the workforce,” said Cindy L. Miles, chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District. “The work of the Alliance and the Higher Edge scholarship will transform East County.”

Representatives from the Alliance are visiting all Grossmont Union high schools to tell ninth-graders about the Higher Edge scholarship promise and let them know the steps they will need to take to be eligible for a Higher Edge scholarship.

To receive a scholarship, students must maintain a cumulative minimum 2.0 GPA and begin college within a year after they graduate from high school. Students must fill out a financial aid form and participate in an orientation and educational assessment. To help prepare them for college, students will need to participate in events to learn about college and take a college success course.

A key goal of the scholarship is to get students and parents excited about the prospect of college, so this year’s freshmen, who will be the first to benefit, all received congratulatory letters informing them they are eligible for the Higher Edge scholarship promise.

Three high school freshmen spoke to board members about how the Higher Edge scholarship promise and the work of the Alliance will make their futures brighter.

“Thank you for this wonderful opportunity,” said Brooklyn Goodwin, a Monte Vista High School freshman. “The program provides that little push toward higher education. It will be a benefit and will leave a mark for many of our students.”

Valhalla High School freshman Isabel King said the scholarship will help her reach her dream of becoming an art teacher.

“It’s what I am passionate about,” she said. “It’s amazing what this program will do. It is really a big help to me and my family. They didn’t go to college, but this makes it possible for me.”

Saul Martinez, who attends Valhalla High School, said his parents always told him the key to success is an education.

“I never listened until middle school, when I realized they were right,” he said. “I didn’t speak English much, but I didn’t give up. When I heard about the scholarship, I was so impressed. It will help me save money for future years, and the counseling sessions will help me.”

Fundraising for the Higher Edge scholarship began with an employee-giving campaign at both the college and high school districts. As a result, 256 employees agreed to donate a combined $5,560 a month, translating to $222,420 over four years to help fund the scholarship.

“We are building bridges of opportunity for the students who come through our schools,” said Ralf Swenson, Grossmont Union High School District superintendent. “We are impacting lives and families, and offering them a launching pad for new opportunities.”