Working cooperatively with Imperial Valley College, San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus and local school districts, UCOP is trying to develop a college-going culture in Imperial County.
"Our intent here is to promote this college-going culture so that going to college becomes part of the everyday vocabulary," Saragoza said.
Part of this process is the combination of professional development for local educators and recruitment of prospective students, Saragoza said.
The initiative aims, in part, to make teachers greater advocates of going to college.
Traditionally, high school counselors are the source for college information but those few counselors cannot do it alone, Saragoza said. What's more, students and their families need information about colleges and their admission requirements well before they reach high school, he added.
Often, students don't take the proper classes required for admission and don't realize it until it's too late, Saragoza said. By getting the word out while students are still young, they will know, going into high school, what they need to take.
Saragoza's visit to the Imperial Valley on Tuesday was not to garner publicity for the collaborative effort but to start reaching one of the initiative's goals.
The initiative's organizers plan to disseminate a consistent flow of information about going to college through local media outlets, Saragoza said.
Getting information to parents is particularly important, Saragoza said.
"When I graduated from high school and told my parents I was going to college, my dad thought I didn't want to work," Saragoza said.
"He never finished middle school. His idea of going to school was to get out and go to work, and for a lot of parents, that's an understandable attitude," Saragoza said.
"We need to give parents information about what their kids need to learn," he said.
"I'm convinced the overwhelming majority of parents, if you asked them if they want their children to go to college, they'd say yes," Saragoza said.
But the parents don't have a specific sense of what classes and skills their kids need and how early they need to start, he said.
"We envision having activities all through the year," Saragoza said.
UCOP plans to host conferences for middle school parents, provide professional development for local educators and bring present UC students from Imperial County back to their former schools to talk about going to college. The effort will also take local students to UC campuses and put parents in touch with parents of UC students to talk about their questions and concerns.
Imperial County was selected due to the enthusiasm and vision of county Superintendent of Schools John Anderson and his team of educational leaders, Saragoza said.
The county also was attractive because of its technological resources, low teacher turnover rate compared to other parts of the state and its size. Here so many people know each other that educational programs are not isolated from each other.
The project is expected to cost about $150,000 this first year, $300,000 the second and possibly $600,000 the third, Saragoza said. UCOP expects to attract private funding for the initiative.
>> Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.