For that to happen, preparation needs to begin long before the high school senior year.
"We need to begin at a much younger age than high school. We need to begin at a much younger age than middle school," Guerrero said.
Local resident Gretchen Laue, also English language arts director of UCOP's teacher education and professional development division, said UCOP has the resources to help Imperial County students.
Laue said student achievement will rise "if we could collaborate and have all the districts work together and have the highest-quality resources for teachers."
One of those resources is technology.
Moises Torres, UCOP special assistant to the vice president of educational outreach, said one way Imperial County can benefit is through online professional development, for example.
"Given the distance, I think it's important for us to think of new ways of working with teachers. One way of doing it is through technology," Torres said.
The collaboration isn't just between local schools and UCOP. Parents and family members play important roles, too.
"To really establish a college-going culture here we need to establish a college-going culture in families," Guerrero said.
That means increasing communication between Imperial County families and universities and having more information available for parents, Guerrero said.
"It's nice to talk about it (raising student achievement), but now it's time for the nuts and bolts," Guerrero said.
In addition to bringing UCOP resources to local students, teachers and administrators, Guerrero and others hope the collaboration will extend to Imperial Valley College to improve the transfer system of IVC students into the UC system.
San Diego State University- Imperial Valley campus will be involved because it houses the UC Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement program, which UCOP is trying to extend to Brawley Union High School.
Imperial County is an ideal place to develop such a relationship with UCOP, Guerrero said.
The long-term commitment of Imperial County Superintendent of Schools John Anderson, ICOE staff and local schools was one factor encouraging UCOP's involvement, Guerrero said.
The size of Imperial County's student population is small enough to allow significant impact on a variety of factors and easy assessment of district and school progress, he added.
Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.