Executive Summary

Napa High School junior Evelyn Tijero, 17, plans on going to an in-state university when she graduates from high school, but how do her parents feel about letting go of their youngest child?

Now that her mother has participated in Napa Valley Parent University’s new “College Readiness” pilot program, Evelyn says that both her parents are more comfortable with the idea and more supportive of her goals.

The program was offered in four sessions throughout February to parents of Youth Leadership Program students at McPherson Elementary School. Evelyn volunteered her time to help out with the series and asked if her mother could also participate.

Her mother has been looking for more ways to get involved in her life, Evelyn said. “I’m proud of her,” Evelyn said. Seeing her mom “step up” has added stability to Evelyn’s life and has motivated her to work even harder to attain her goals.

Evelyn plans on going to an in-state university and possibly pursuing a law degree to enable her to give back to her community. She would be the first in her family to attend college.

Many of the parents who attended the “College Readiness” series did not attend college themselves and were unfamiliar with what it takes to get into one, how to pay for it and what the differences are between community colleges and universities.

The majority of parents were low-income who spoke only Spanish, according to Maria Ruiz, co-coordinator for Parent University. However, other than this pilot program, Parent University classes are open to all parents.

Parents in the program might not have ever considered that their child may be able to attend college or even want to, explained Mary Alvarez, coordinator for the Youth Leadership Program, formerly known as the Leadership Academy. They expect their children to go to a junior college first, get a job or even get married, Alvarez said.

Over the course of four sessions, speakers discussed how to prepare for college, what resources are available to help pay the expenses and how to overcome fears and misconceptions about sending away a child to college.

“We didn’t really have a big idea on how to get them to a university,” (translated from Spanish) said Mireya Rodriguez. She and her husband, Julian, have two children, ages 15 and 13. “We wanted to get the information so we can help our kids go to a university.”

Rodriguez admitted that she and her husband fear letting go of their children and of being separated from them. She has learned that it is important to talk to them about going to college and trust them to go out on their own.

Rodriguez also learned what her children need to start doing now in and out of school to be on track for college, like improving their grades and being involved in volunteering or other extracurricular activities.

“This is really what helped us see that it was a reality,” she said of the program.

LaRina Davis decided to attend the class because she has a 17-year-old son who is getting ready to go to college and she wanted to be able to help him with the process. “I figured ‘why not come to this class and see what he needs to do,’” she said.

Her son is the oldest of six kids, Davis said, so learning about preparing for college now will enable her to support her younger children on their education paths.

“This is a good class … I learned a lot,” Davis said. Her daughter, Khyra, 10, was especially excited that her mom was attending, she said. Khyra is a fifth grader who would like to be a lawyer.

Patricia Mendoza has already had her oldest child begin college at Sonoma State University, but has one more graduating soon and two younger ones. Three out of four have participated in the Youth Leadership Program, she said.

Sending her first child to college was full of challenges, Mendoza said. With that experience, and now the “College Readiness” program, “It will only get easier” with the next child, she said in Spanish.

“When you hear the word ‘university’ and you look at how much it costs to go, you kind of block yourself and think ‘it’s not possible’ because you don’t know that there are ways to pay for it,” Mendoza added.

Ruiz and Alvarez plan to hold the “College Readiness” program again during the 2016-2017 school year.

Parent University is a collaborative effort between Queen of the Valley Medical Center and On the Move Napa Valley.