SANTA ANA, Calif. - They say that to see, is to believe.
For these middle schoolers touring Santa Ana College, it’s their first experience stepping onto a college campus.
Jesse Torres is a seventh grader at Mendez Fundamental in Santa Ana. Like many of his peers who come from lower-income families, he’s getting an opportunity to bring his future goals into focus.
He’s part of a group called KidWorks, which helps low-income Orange County families navigate the college process. Jesse and the majority of his friends will be first-generation college students.
“If I didn’t come here, I wouldn’t have had this experience and I would have just probably had not even thought about going to college,” says Jesse.
Luis Ruvalcava is a high school junior in KidWorks touring UCLA. For kids whose parents are immigrants in lower-income households or lack the resources to understand preparing for the college process, without programs like this -- which provide tutoring from pre-school age, a building filled with resources, and SAT prep -- college might not even be on their radar.
“It’s really important to have programs that help students, especially first-generation students or people who are just like low-income or have really low opportunities. So it’s just really important to look out for those students that they have an equal opportunity to attend college as well,” said Luis.
In light of the recent college admissions scandal, the challenge for these kids is an overlooked consequence. UCLA was one of the schools implicated, and it would be easy to feel like the admissions process isn’t equal for everyone. But Luis says that he chooses to see it differently.
“They’re saying like, ‘What am I working so hard for while all these other people can cheat?' But personally, I don’t really care about that because I’m getting more out of it than they can. They don’t really get the experience out of life. So really I’m learning more than what they are. Even though education comes from a school, you really get education more out of life,” said Luis.
For Jesse, who still has the world ahead of him, it’s seeing those open doors right in front of him that allows him to believe in his own American Dream.
“When I grow up, personally I want to become the President of the United States. So if you’re out there, vote for me,” said Jesse.