Santa Clara University Students Give Littles An Unforgettable Glimpse of College Life
New research1 shows that earnings differences between education levels are higher today than ever before. According to The Schott Foundation, an opportunity gap exists for historically disadvantaged families: “Only one-third of Americans have any college or postsecondary credentials, and the bottom two-thirds of Americans are more likely to drop out of schools and to be incarcerated. Black males are pushed out of high school and into the pipeline to prison at rates higher than they graduate and reach high levels of academic achievement.”
The children we serve at Big Brothers Big Sisters come from such historically disadvantaged families: Our Littles are primarily children of color (94%), from low-income families (90%), being raised by a single parent, foster parent or grandparent. One in every five of our youth has at least one parent incarcerated. These children have abundant talents and dreams, yet often lack adequate guidance on the path to success. With limited exposure to college and professional role models many are destined to repeat a cycle of poverty. But mentors like our Bigs can and do play a critical role in widening a child’s view of their future and helping create a clear path.
Last year, we were proud to see that 90% of our grade 12 “Littles” graduated from high school. Many went on to colleges like Princeton, UC Santa Barbara, San Jose State University and San Francisco State University.
Post-graduation paints a bleaker picture. While the technology sector is booming — set to create an estimated 1.4 million job openings by 2020 — there are fewer women in computer- science-related careers now than there were nearly 20 years ago in 1990.
A shining example of the bridge to success even young “near-peer” mentors can create is the recent outreach effort organized by four Santa Clara University students as a class project.
Geraldine, Louis, Kate, and Chicca had an assignment to design and implement a project with a local non-profit. “We decided to focus on the lack of college preparation and knowledge, as well as the importance of higher education for students who are not as exposed to the process,” they told us. “We noticed Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area was also working toward a similar goal, but in a broader sense.”
The group looked at best ways to work with the Littles that BBBSBA serves and were connected with SCU LEAD Scholars, an on-campus initiative that supports students who are the first in their families to attend college. They also spoke with one of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ veteran Match Support Specialists, Mary, who shared an eye-opening view of the children participating in our programs. “We learned that the Littles had not had much exposure to college campuses in general,” the four said. They decided to make the day fun by organizing a college scavenger hunt.
Meeting on a Saturday at the SCU campus, the four students started the day with ice-breakers designed to put the shy Littles at ease, and the group bonded throughout the day. “Towards the end, they engaged more in the scavenger hunt and asked more questions,” the four observed. The matches worked as a group to solve riddles the four had come up with, which would lead to various places on campus. “We even deviated from the schedule occasionally to address their individual interests. They learned, from our first-hand experience, what it means to be a college student.” The accompanying Bigs were thrilled, asking when they could do this again.
Our match support specialist agreed it was a great day. “They were SUPER!” Mary raved, when asked about the day and the four students that planned it. “We got the inside scoop on what life is like as a student at SCU and what opportunities and resources are out there for everyone, including students of color, students with disabilities, and students who are the first in their families to go to college."
Thank you to Geraldine, Louis, Kate, and Chicca for organizing this wonderful opportunity for our Littles and their Bigs, and to and Santa Clara University’s LEAD Scholars program for being there to support young adults like them on their path to college.
1. from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis