Summer is over, and just like proud parents, Pasadena Community Foundation (PCF) is cheering our PCF Scholars as they begin their schoolyear at Pasadena City College (PCC).
PCF Scholars is an innovative education grant program launched in 2019 by PCF in response to national data that shows dropout rates are very high at community colleges, especially among low-income students. PCF Scholars supports students at PUSD high schools who need additional resources to meet their educational goals at PCC. Participants receive financial assistance and ongoing wraparound academic and social support from counselors. The program has grown to serve 28 students in its three years, including 12 new participants for the 2021-22 schoolyear.
At the heart of the PCF Scholars is a team of community partners that strive to motivate students to stay enrolled and persist in their education: PCC First Year Experience/Pathways, PCC Foundation, and College Access Plan (CAP) have been integral to the program since its onset. This spring, Partnership for Success!, Stars, and MPYD at Muir High School became part of the PCF Scholars support team.
Partner organizations offer support in numerous ways, including guiding the college application process; filling out FAFSA, Dream Act, and reimbursement forms; and reviewing financial aid packages, and connecting them to tutoring services. They also ensure that each student forms a meaningful relationship with an informed adult who provides holistic counseling and helps the student set and meet their educational goals.
Measuring Success and Hearing from Participants
PCF recently concluded a two-year study of PCF Scholars, and overall, the findings indicate that the program has had a positive impact on students’ successes in school. One indicator is that average GPAs have increased over time for most of the scholars, rising from 2.2 in the fall of 2019, when the program began, to 3.03 in spring of 2021.
The study also included in-depth interviews with 11 of the scholars. When asked specifically which components of PCF Scholars helped them most, all 11 students unanimously reported “access to a caring adult.” “Financial assistance” was a close second at 91%. One student said, “I’ve never really had any other contributing people in my life to be like ‘anything you need.’ Either in school or outside of school. They show that they care.”
Students also expressed gratitude for quick and easy access to a PCC counselor. “They make sure that I’m doing great in school . . . They’re supporting me in striving for that. Detailing me on what’s it going to be like. They send emails. I get calls. I get messages. That helps update me and keeps me motivated. Being included helps me feel supported.” The scholars also reported feeling very proud of their participation in the program. One student says, “For me, it’s my first scholarship, so it’s an unforgettable thing. I’m really proud of myself for earning a spot here. I’m not able to forget that I’m here. It’s a big accomplishment for me.”
As the PCF staff member who oversees PCF Scholars, Program Director Kate Clavijo is similarly proud of the accomplishments and promise of these young adults. To her, it’s clear that they are hard-working and dedicated, noting “in the last year, due to the pandemic, colleges across the country experienced steep declines in attendance and increased rates of failing grades. It’s a testament to PCF Scholars that 80% of the participants maintained enrollment during this time. Despite the isolation and hardship of the past year, our students showed remarkable resilience. The PCF Scholars program increased their comfort level with college and helped them stay motivated and persist in their education.”