With graduation season under way in the valley, 15 students who never imagined heading off to college will have the opportunity to, thanks in part to Diplomas to Degrees (d2D), a Boys & Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley college readiness pilot program. Developed two years ago by Boys & Girls of America, d2D helps students earn their diplomas and prepare for a college education and career success.
With a dropout rate of nearly 25 percent and only 30 percent of seniors eligible to apply to state public colleges, there is a real need to get students in Mecca on track and ready for college. This means getting students into the required classes, motivating them when they lose focus and giving them information to help make responsible decisions about their future.
In 2011, when the Joel E. Smilow Clubhouse opened its doors, none of the members graduating had plans for higher education. With unbalanced student-to-counselor ratios, there were few places for Mecca teens to turn for guidance, especially for those whose parents did not attend college. This is one area where we thought we could make a real difference, and just a few years later we are proud to report our club members’ successes.
Forty students participated in the program this year. Of the 18 seniors, 17 are now graduating and our team is working with the one senior who was behind on credits. He plans to graduate in 2015. This success shows that when students have access to information and support from their community, they can achieve incredible things.
Participants learn the basics of the college admissions process, including how to apply for financial aid, look for scholarships and determine the right school for their educational and career goals. They also prep for the unnerving admissions tests. Staff works with students on a regular basis making plans, checking progress and giving encouragement. Whether it is finding online resources or simply sharing stories during a study break, our caring team at the clubhouse has been key to the success of d2D.
Graduates from the program will be attending some great schools in the fall:
• College of the Desert.
• The CSU campuses of Chico, Humboldt, San Bernardino and San Diego.
• The UC campuses of Davis, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz.
Together, they received $37,000 in scholarships with a significant portion of funding coming from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley Foundation and our matching amount partner, the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership.
This year, the d2D program was funded through a generous grant from the Anderson Children’s Foundation in Palm Springs. Also, annual funding from the Riverside County Board of Supervisors supports all of our programs and services. In fact, the 30,000-square-foot clubhouse itself wouldn’t exist without more than $6 million in county redevelopment funds. It’s because of investments like these that students who never considered college are making a newfound dream a reality.
When students benefit from successful college readiness programs like d2D, individuals, families and communities are transformed. So far, this program has changed the lives of 17 students and proved that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley is committed to expanding this program and has submitted a grant request to bring the d2D program to students in Desert Hot Springs. We look to the community for support as we develop these opportunities across the valley.