BELL — One hundred and fifty students from predominantly Latino Bell High School will experience university life firsthand this year.
The students will spend a week on one of three California university campuses through the school's newly created Golden Eagle Academic Partnership Program.
According to Bell Principal Mary Ann Sesma, the students will be taught by college faculty as well as Bell teachers while in residence at Cal State Bakersfield, Cal State Los Angeles or USC. They will also use college facilities and participate in campus activities.
"They are going to get college-level treatment at a college campus," said Leni Posner, an administrator for the Los Angeles Unified School District, of which Bell is a part. "They are going to live a college life for a week."
The program is designed to increase the number of Bell students who apply for and attend colleges and universities, Sesma said. Bell, a year-round school with more than 4,000 students, is almost 93% Latino. Last year, only 25% of the Latino graduates of the school district went on to four-year colleges. In contrast, 34% of the black graduates, 49% of the Anglo graduates and 71% of the Asian graduates attended college.
Sesma said most Bell students come from families that have had no college experience. "Our parents, marvelous as they are, have . . . about an eighth-grade education," she said.
The new program, the only one of its kind in the state, will give students a far better picture of college life than they could get from a typical visit to a college campus, Sesma said. The usual campus tour "doesn't answer the needs of our students," she said. "We have to affirm that they can be successful. We have to affirm that they can go to college. We have to affirm that they will go to college."
The first college residency will begin July 17 at USC.
A group of 25 students, selected on the basis of their academic promise by their high-school teachers, will spend a week on campus studying Spanish literature and language. Most of the students are 11th- and 12th-graders, and all are on Bell's academic track. Subsequent groups of 25 will study French literature and English at Cal State Bakersfield, American history and literature at Bakersfield or mathematics and science at Cal State Los Angeles. The math and science residencies will emphasize ecology and genetics and statistics and probability.
The program will be academically rigorous, Sesma said, but the students will not be graded on their performance.
The three campuses volunteered after being contacted by Sesma about the program.
Manuel Parra, a Bell social studies teacher and co-director of the project with Sesma, said he is pleased that some of the students will be going to Bakersfield. "I think it would be very positive for students from an urban setting to experience a university outside this area," he said.
Preparation for the program includes related classroom work at Bell.
To pay for the program, the school district has received $135,200 from the state's California Academic Partnership Program and the California Postsecondary Education Commission, which distributes federal money. The project is named after Bell's mascot, the golden eagle.
Sesma said the Bell students have a lesson to teach the participating colleges. "We want them to recognize that our Hispanic young people are capable of high levels of achievement," she said.