Aspiring college students and their parents packed the classrooms and halls of Cal State East Bay in Hayward on Saturday to get a heads-up on higher education during the ninth annual Latino Education Summit.
The free, five-hour event drew 500 to 700 attendees, who took advantage of workshops presented by Cal State East Bay's faculty and students on topics including high school prerequisite courses needed to qualify for university admission, fitness and physical education, grants, scholarships and financial aid.
Some of the panel discussions were presented in both English and Spanish.
High school senior Derek Juscamayta said the help he received from a counselor in an "On-The-Spot Admission" meeting has eased his mind about moving on to college.
The 17-year-old, who plans to become a lawyer - specializing in discrimination, immigration, security and child labor issues - said the counselor advised him on which classes he needs to take for the remainder of his high school year to become fully qualified to gain admission to Cal State East Bay.
"Without this information, I would probably have gone to community college and worked," he said. "This really opened doors for me."
The event was also sponsored by the Alameda County Office of Education and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Alameda County. The summit, and others like it for other ethnic groups, are intended to expose
more young people to the higher-education opportunities available to them.
Offering an environment where students and parents feel free to ask questions helps reduce the intimidation that many feel in seeking higher education resources, said Hector Garcia, director of curriculum and instruction for the county office.
"Here, they learn necessary information about what is required - how to apply, what requirements must be met, what is college life like," he said.
While the numbers of Latino college students are rising, there is still a need to encourage and inform more families, he said. The university's Web site states the number of full-time Hispanic students in a bachelors programs in 2003 was 1,114 and rose to 1,321 in 2007. The 2007 figures for other ethnic groups in a full-time bachelors program was 2,666 for the Asian/Pacific group; 2,210 for white students; 1,572 for "Other"; 1,209 for black students and 64 for American Indian students.
In all categories, female enrollment was higher than male enrollment.
Cal State East Bay's enrollment recently reached the highest number in school history, at more than 14,000. India Christman, the university's executive director for planning and enrollment management, said she thinks the increase is due in part to the institution's push for more public exposure.
"There has been an explosive growth, especially since we've had the new president (Mohammad H. Qayoumi)," Christman said, adding that there is still room for more students - even though the Cal State system is looking to steer some incoming freshmen away from some of its other, more crowded campuses.
The staff at Cal State East Bay has made a concerted effort to get the word out about campus improvements, such as its expanded dorms and the lower prices compared with private colleges and the UC system, said Gregory Smith, Cal State East Bay's associate vice president for planning and enrollment management.
"A lot more students are living here," he said. "And even to the commuting students, this has become more like a four-year campus environment."
Saturday's summit ended with a complimentary lunch and a drum and Aztec dance performance. A summit for African-American students is planned for next month.