For South Summit students, college is just an application away
Amy Regan has been working with students from low-income families for nearly a decade, so she knows the obstacles those who would be first-generation collegians face.
One of the challenges, though, can be easily resolved. That’s why Regan, an adviser with the federal Educational Talent Search Program at South Summit High School, urged the school to participate in Utah College Application Week.
"Some students don’t come from a college-going culture and they just don’t know how (to apply for college)," Regan said. "I’ve had kids where I’m sitting there helping them and we get to one thing and they’re just like, ‘I don’t know what that means. I don’t know how to do that.’"
Many students, Regan said, simply give up when the application process becomes too difficult or complicated. But Utah College Application Week, organized by the Utah System of Higher Education, allows every student in participating schools the chance to apply with the help of instructors in class. Some in-state schools even waive their application fees for the event.
The program was set to be held in all senior English classes at South Summit this week, while assistance was also available to students in AP or EdNet English classes. Any student who wants to use the program to apply can do so, but it was designed specifically with low-income students in mind.
"Obviously we have kids that have already applied, ones who are all on top of that and know what they’re doing," Regan said. "They don’t necessarily need the help. But I feel like there are some kids that would not necessarily do this without the actual help in the classroom."
Senior Juan Rodriguez is one student who planned to apply in his English class. He is undecided about his future but is thinking about studying computer science at Dixie State University. Only recently has going to college even become an option.
"It’s been this year," he said. "None of my family members have gone to college and I want to be the first one to show them."
Tori Ure, another senior, has always wanted to go to college to study child development before becoming an elementary school teacher or starting a daycare center. But she admits that the application process is frustrating, so she was also going to take advantage of the help.
"I want help applying for college and this is the only way I could get it," she said. "I have no time, so with college application week, I’ll have people there to help me fill out the papers and get everything taken care of."
Regan said some form of post-secondary education — even if it’s completing a one-year program at a technical school — is crucial for students entering today’s workforce because it’s the only way they can gain the skills employers are seeking. She hopes helping students fill out their applications makes attending college a tangible goal for those who wouldn’t otherwise consider going.
"It just kind of gives them an idea that they can do something, too," she said. "I think sometimes that’s not clear enough. At the end of the year, we have a big scholarship assembly, and there are kids who get all the scholarships and get called up to the front over and over again. But there are other kids that are just sitting there. And those are the kids who I just want to go, ‘Hey, I’m going to college, too. I know all about that, and I can do it, too.’"
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