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CLASS NOTES – Peninsula College Fund Helping Beat the Odds

Founded seven years ago, Peninsula College Fund’s mission is to partner with and aid motivated, gifted and traditionally under-represented minority students from the Bay Area in their quest to achieve their short and long-term educational and career goals. All 67 scholars and the 7 college graduates are first generation students from low-income families.

The program, like the students it supports, has shown remarkable fortitude and resolve. PCF has had a 98 percent retention rate, with one student of the 74 matriculating into the military. This is more than notable when considering the bleak statistics for low-income, first generation college students. They are nearly four times more likely to leave higher education after their first year than are students who have neither risk factor.

What is the key to their flawless implementation? According to founder Charles Schmuck, PCF’s success is based on a four-legged program of scholarships, summer jobs, training and mentorship. “We also acknowledge that none of it would be possible without the generosity of our donors, volunteers, board members and amazing scholars,” he said.

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Each student is awarded approximately $3,000 each year for four years. They are matched with a mentor that provides support and positive role modeling. They also help students find paid and volunteer internships so they can be exposed to different career opportunities and host educational workshops to provide knowledge necessary to ensure that students stay in college and graduate.

How many more college students of every income and background would have higher success rates if such a dynamic approach to higher education was implemented, starting in high school or even earlier. As a middle school teacher, I believe that, as Schmuck says “a four-legged approach” to education would skyrocket many of my own students who believe that education is out of their grasp and not part of their path to success.

They are too young and inexperienced to know what a monumental difference education can make. As a product of a single mother of seven, I know that my success as a writer and educator is due to the opportunities I was afforded throughout my educational career. Successful adults know luck doesn’t just happen; it is made. Peninsula College Fund is turning these scholars’ disadvantaged beginnings into an opportunity to be lucky in life – and be role models for every young person who has been discouraged and disillusioned, believing that higher education just isn’t in their cards.

Just ask one of PCF’s scholars how important this program was to securing a future. According to award recipient Kathy Garcia, a graduate of Eastside College Preparatory who is headed to Loyola Marymount University in the fall, “The PCF scholarship has made all the difference, enabling me to attend my dream school.  I plan to study biology, chemistry, physics and calculus as an undergraduate, with the goal of becoming a pediatrician. My father has worked so hard to give his children the chance of a better future. With support from my PCF mentor and fellow scholars, I hope to honor his work by doing well in college.”

For more information on Peninsula College Fund visit www.peninsulacollegefund.org.

Contact Margaret Lavin at elementarydays@gmail.com.

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