Park City’s Bright Futures program shoots for more success in second year | ParkRecord.com

Park City’s Bright Futures program shoots for more success in second year

‘We’re seeing that the students are getting that twinkle in their eyes and opening up their minds’

The Bright Futures program, which aims to help underserved students become college graduates, welcomed its second cohort of students with a summer orientation last week. Many of the students say they joined because they want to make their families proud and improve their lives by earning college degrees.

The words still ring in his ears.

How could they not? Juan Garcia remembers the bullies and the things they told him. They joked about his Latino heritage. You'll never, they said, amount to anything.

Now, the memories serve as strong motivation. Garcia, an incoming sophomore at Park City High School, recently joined Bright Futures, a program sponsored by the Park City Education Foundation that aims to give underserved students the relationships and resources they'll need to be successful in high school and, down the road, as first-generation collegians.

Garcia sees participating in the program as an opportunity to show everyone, once and for all, what he's capable of.

"All those people said I wouldn't be anyone and that I wouldn't make it," he said. "I just want to prove them all wrong."

Garcia was among more than 25 Park City High School sophomores last week who kicked off the program's second year at a weeklong orientation called Summer Academy. The event was designed to introduce them to Bright Futures and begin familiarizing them with what colleges look for in successful applicants and what it will take to succeed once admitted.

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After Bright Futures got off the ground last year, its reputation grew within Park City's underserved population, said Rebeca Gonzalez, the program's director and a Park City High School graduate. This year, students were eager to sign up.

She said it is inspiring to see so many young people striving to change their lives through sacrifice and hard work.

"We're seeing that the students are getting that twinkle in their eyes and opening up their minds," she said, adding that students from the first year helped recruit the new crop of participants. "They're engaging with the volunteers and with the community. We see each other's strengths and bring them to light. That's what I love."

Another student, Cassandra Paniagua, joined this summer after her mother implored her throughout her childhood to earn an education. Participating in Bright Futures, she said, is the clearest way to make that a reality.

"She didn't go to college, and I want to make my mom proud," she said. "And I feel like if I learn more about college, it will be easier."

Gonzalez added that the program wouldn't be possible without the support of the Park City community. She urged everyone who wants to help shape the future of the town and its young people to get involved.

"I see the passion and commitment grow from so many people," she said. "It's making a difference in the lives of the students. Because the students and their families are so committed. They know the value this program has."

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