College-going rate has tripled in neighborhood now served by UCLA Community School

Alison Hewitt

95 percent of last year’s seniors at school in Koreatown plan to attend college

Before Eric Alejo enrolled as an eighth-grader at the UCLA Community School in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, he never figured he would go to college. But he was inspired when his teachers didn’t ask if he would continue his education — they asked where.

“The teachers here really know you, and they push you toward going to college,” said Alejo, now a high school senior.

Working with volunteers from UCLA, teachers at the Community School are focused on ensuring students are qualified to apply to a University of California campus — steering them to the college prep classes they need and making certain they know the deadlines for registering for PSATs and SATs. This fall, the school will also hold a pizza party where the seniors can begin their college applications with guidance from academic counselors and teachers.

So although it’s not time for Alejo to fill out those forms or write his personal statement just yet, his self-assurance when speaking about his college plans shows in his confident phrasing: “I’m the first one in my family to go to college. I’m also the first to graduate high school.”

Alejo’s story represents a remarkable shift brought about by the Community School, a K-12 school created through a partnership between UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, the Los Angeles Unified School District and several community organizations.

Before the school opened in September 2009 and the high school opened in 2010, only one-third of the high school graduates in the area now served by the school went on to attend college. Now, as the school celebrates its fifth anniversary, that percentage has increased almost threefold. In June, the first group of seniors who spent all four years at the high school graduated. Of them, 95 percent plan to attend college this fall, more than half were admitted to four-year schools (up from 13 percent in 2009) and one-quarter were admitted to UC campuses (up from 4 percent).

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