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 However, when Alex entered his Senior Year at J.W. North High School in Riverside, Barbara thought her son had reached the end of his academic career. Although Barbara had participated in various programs for English Language Learner parents throughout Alex’s education, she was under the misconception that her son could not go on to a college or university because of his immigration status; Alex was born in Mexico. 

 “I could not believe that despite having done everything possible to learn and support my son through school, I was still in the dark,” Barbara shared at a community forum hosted by Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC) on May 21 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Riverside. 

 Over 80 immigrant parents and students shared similar stories with Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) Board Members Kathy Allavie and Patricia Lock Dawson. The ICUC Education Committee, made up of immigrant parents and students, shared with the audience research they had conducted during the past year on college readiness and attainment. Their findings were based on one to one conversations with fellow parents and students, surveys, and research meetings with representatives from over 20 academic institutions throughout the Inland Empire and Orange County. 

 The Committee shared that only 52% of RUSD high school graduates move on to a college or university despite California’s economic demand for workers with a secondary education. 

 “Although families are working hard, they are falling further behind economically,” shared Maria Dolores Cordova, member of the ICUC Education Committee, immigrant parent, and mother of three. “Completing a certificate or obtaining a college degree greatly increases ones capacity to earn more throughout their lifetime.”

 ICUC is holding similar forums all over the diocese, with the next one scheduled for June 11 at St. Anthony Parish in San Bernardino at 7 pm. Concerned youth and parents representing eight parishes will meet with representatives of the San Bernardino City Unified School District. 

 The Committee ended the evening by asking Allavie and Lock Dawson to support the launch of a pilot Parent/Student Higher Education Center at one of the local high schools. The centers serve as a “one stop shop” for parents and students on college information and they offer events for each 9-12 grade level during the academic year related to academic successes, completion, and readiness. 

 “My guidance through high school was a program called AVID, unfortunately, not everybody in high school is part of AVID and some students end up falling through the cracks without this type of help,” shared J.W. North senior Nadia Ayala. “I saw many of my friends on a daily basis not knowing what to do and being completely lost throughout high school. I think the kind of support AVID gave me is very important for ALL students and their families.”

 Similarly, the ICUC Education Committee feels that Higher Education Centers will help to address RUSD’s college going rate and the student to counselor ratio, which is currently 675/1. Allivie and Dawson support the proposal for a Higher Education Center and agreed to continue working with the Education Committee on opening a pilot.