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UCSD chancellor reaches out to local kids

May 10, 2002|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH

Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — When Robert Dynes, chancellor of the University of California, San Diego takes the stage and starts preaching his message that everyone can go to college, kids listen.

Kids listen because Dynes, even from his lofty perch in the chancellor's office, is not afraid to admit that he was not always a "particularly good student," but because he persevered and went to college, the world opened up to him.

On Thursday morning Dynes addressed students at Holtville Middle School with a passionate but simple message: "If you set your sights high, if you aim to go to college — then the world will be at your feet."

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In town for the day to talk with educators and students about academic outreach initiatives at UCSD, Dynes challenged the assembled students by saying, "I hope you set your sights high. We want to see you at UCSD several years from now and you can do that by either entering as a freshman or going to community college and then transferring to UCSD."

Telling the students not to be afraid of the cost of going to college, that there is financial aid available to everyone who needs it, Dynes concluded his address by telling the students, "I hope that some day I'll be able to shake your hand as you graduate (from college) and say, ‘You're on your way!'"

Guiding Dynes on a tour of individual classrooms at Holtville Middle School, Principal Gerado Roman said he viewed the significance of the chancellor's visit as, "emphasizing to our students the importance of preparing really early — before they enter high school — to maintain the focus and goal of going on to college."

Later, as keynote speaker at the College Going Initiative conference for educators at Barbara Worth Golf Resort in Holtville, Dynes described San Diego and Imperial counties as being, "enormously rich in cultural diversity … with a need for future community leaders who have learned to interact with each other in ways that are constructive and respectful of each other's backgrounds and cultures."

The conference was sponsored jointly by the UCSD Early Academic Outreach Program, Imperial Valley office in conjunction with the UC Office of the President and the Imperial County Office of Education.

Addressing the issue of Proposition 209 passed by California voters in 1996, which banned race and gender as factors in admissions to the UC system, Dynes said his fear at that time was the ruling would cause a "narrowing of diversity" on campus that would result in the loss to UC of "some of the brightest young people who perhaps did not have the same education opportunities as others."

He went on to talk about action plans and initiatives UCSD has developed since that time to ensure that all student populations of San Diego and Imperial counties are encouraged to develop a "college-going mentality."

Saying, "I want the brightest kids of every background on our campus … that's critical to the success of USCD and Southern California, especially San Diego and Imperial County," Dynes stressed to the educators, "These students are our next leaders and we cannot afford the brain drain to other parts of the country; our region needs this gifted, diverse work force, especially in these complicated times people are facing since last Sept. 11."

Interviewed after his keynote speech, Dynes acknowledged that UCSD's "recognition" of Imperial County and its particular educational challenges had been slow in developing.

"Of course it's overdue, it's way overdue — it should have been done 20, even 30 years ago…I believe UCSD has a responsibility to the communities of San Diego and Imperial Valley and if we do not serve those communities, we are not doing our job."

>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or dingo87@earthlink.net

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