Photo by Steve Shay
Left, Joana Cervera, a West Seattle High School senior, talks to Vanessa Reed Calonzo, Student Outreach, Admissions, Recruitment at South Seattle Community College during yesterday's college bound kickoff tour.

Chief Sealth, WSHS college bound scholars tour SSCC

College loans navigated

Yesterday was College Bound Kickoff Day as Chief Sealth and West Seattle High School seniors in the College Bound Scholarship program toured South Seattle Community College.

Seniors From Cleveland, Rainier Beach, and South Lake high schools also attended.

The College Bound Scholarship provides an opportunity for students and families who otherwise might not consider college as an option because of cost.

According to the College Bound Scholarship website, "The amount of the scholarship will be based on tuition rates at Washington public colleges and universities and will cover the amount of tuition and fees (plus $500 for books) not covered by other state financial aid awards.

"Low-income 7th and 8th grade students who sign a pledge by June 30 of their 8th grade year are eligible. Students promise to graduate from high school, demonstrate good citizenship, and seek admission to a college or university. Family income will be re-checked and college admission confirmed after the student graduates from high school."

"These students are trying to find themselves"

"We helped put the event together and structure it," said Vanessa Reed Calonzo, Student Outreach, Admissions, Recruitment at South. She lectured groups of seniors on preparing paperwork for student loans and other details to remain qualified for the scholarship.

"These students are trying to find themselves," Calonzo observed. "I'm talking to students who really know what they want to do, while some students just have no idea. I think in their senior year they're trying to come to terms with that. The pressure's on. As they're exploring it can be overwhelming to some, where as others are ready to go.

"Typically people are surprised how large our campus is," she continued. "A lot of students get really excited when they see the actual culinary classrooms, aviation department, automotive classrooms. It might be different from what they experienced in the past. This might be their first exposure.

"A big thing is that they see the students here in their element and I think that can make a big difference in whether they actually feel like they can see themselves here," she said. "They see the diversity of our campus and it might be similar to what they've experienced in their class, or it might be completely different. On the tour they see classrooms and meet faculty."

"It's my second visit here," said Joana Cervera, a senior at West Seattle High School. She lives on Beacon Hill and works at the Red Apple Market there.

"I really like this campus," she added. "I think I might come here. When I first started high school I was thinking of being a lawyer, and a couple of teachers said I'd be changing my mind, and I did. Then I was thinking of being a nurse, now maybe a dietician. I can't see blood, but at the same time, I think nursing is interesting."

"I'm planning to do the 13th Year Promise Scholarship, with the free one-year tuition," said Lawrance Causey, Chief Sealth senior. "It's my own decision. I'm interested in architecture and business."

The 13th Year Scholarship Program guarantees every graduating senior from Chief Sealth (and Cleveland) the opportunity to attend South tuition-free for one year, regardless of grade point, test scores or other factors.

STUDENT LOAN CONTROVERSY

Paying back student loans for unemployed college graduates has been in the national news lately, due in part to the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and to a new program offering some relief just announced by President Obama.

"You have to be smart about the student loans you take, and what you are going to get out of what you're using the loans for," said Val Rie Smith, Director, Pre-College Services, College Success Foundation which provides support and resources mentoring scholarships for low income students statewide. She was helping with the tour to support seniors and to encourage them to finish their last high school year strong.

"We have to do a lot more on education around how to use student loans more effectively," Smith acknowledged. "I used students loans and I am still paying student loans off for grad school and I wouldn't change a thing. In my personal opinion, if you want to be an architect, flight attendant, own your own auto mechanic shop, doesn't matter. What matters is the experience of going through an undergraduate program which gives you opportunities and experiences no one can ever take away from you.

"Wherever you land, you land," she said. "(The economy) ebbs and flows and it will come back. Be prepared because maybe there is nothing in the work force now, but we need to get you to college, to grad school, to an internship, so that when there are jobs, you're ready to take them."

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