Welcome to NACUBO

Wells Fargo is participating in two insightful panel sessions at NACUBO. Come hear thought leaders in higher education and financial services share institutional challenges they faced and the best practices that resulted.

Wells Fargo is aware of the complex issues being faced by Higher Education institutions. To help keep you informed, we’ve gathered timely content and useful resources for you to scan and share.

Take a Look

“First Generation”

This film has sparked the conversation about what can be done to increase access to college and the success rate for low-income and first-generation students.

"It is the responsibility of the community, at the local, state and national levels, to guarantee that financial barriers do not prevent any able and otherwise qualified young person from receiving the opportunity for higher education.

If college opportunities are restricted to those in the higher income brackets, the way is open to the creation and perpetuation of a class society which has no place in the American way of life."

President's Commission on Higher Education, 1947

First Generation

I’ve always wanted to go to college.I don’t want to go because I want to be the first one one my family to go, that’s not the reason for me going.I want to go because I want to go.

Going to college is important to me because like none of my family members have been to college and I’m trying to be the first one to be more educated.

I’ll be the first one to go to college in my family, so, ya know it’s gonna make me feel good, like I’m number one.

I want to go to college to become something in life to prove to my parents and to everybody that I can do it.

18 Months Earlier

Junior Year, 2nd Semester

I get up at 5:30 every morning.5:30.Press that snooze button, so like 5:40, and get up and start my day, walk out the house at 6:20.

Alright, I love you too mom, I’ll see you later.

I live in Inglewood with my mom and I go to LA Jordan High School in Watts California.So I take three busses and two trains to get to get to school everyday.

Dontay was a talented two sport athlete who commuted an hour and a half to compete on Jordan High School’s highly ranked football and track teams. But for him, the dream of going to college was relatively new.

The first day of tenth grade I got locked up for possession of a firearm.I did 5 months in camp. It really got to me. Ya know, I really seen like you know, if I don’t turn my life around I could be in here for years.I did so go in camp they let me out 10 days before Christmas. From there I just turned my life around.I started going to church, going to school, next thing you know I’m back on track, doing better than ever.

Well, I’ve been going to Jordan since I was in the middle of the tenth grade.It’s in a like not-so-good neighborhood.But I stay to myself, have my headphones on, go to school to learn.

Bye mom.

Bye, I love you.

Love you too.

200 miles north of Dontay, Jess lived in the rural mountain town of Lake Isabella.

Have a seat guys, find a seat. Okay, so let’s start.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

A lot of people dont appreciate our school because it’s so small.We don’t have a lot of new thing, but like we have our farm and we have a good sports program.They don’t think that there’s a lot to be involved in but there really is if you, ya know, just want to do it.

I’m vice president for the junior class and I’m running again for senior class.

See ya Miss Mahoney.

Ethan and I have been together for... it’ll be a year and one month this month actually.And I’m really happy with him, like I’ve never been with anybody this long.We’re pretty much always together and like we don’t get sick of eachother.

I do stats for varsity football and varsity softball.

I like it a lot.It makes me follow the game and it’s fun.And since I’m not coordinated, I’d say, and I can’t really play sports, I just like to be a part of it somehow, ya know.Part of the team.

Working and being involved in student council and getting the grades she does, that’s really hard to do.But she handles it really good and her grades show it.

Cecilia

45 minutes down the canyon road from Lake Isabella was the city of Bakersfield.Considered the oil capitol of California, it was also the home of Cecilia.

I was born here in Bakersfield and I’ve been here all my life, I’ve never moved. My dad came first when he was 17 and my mom, she came here when she was 23.She works in the fields.Her hours are like 5 in the morning to like 3, 4.There’s 9 people living in my house: My mom, my 3 brothers, my sister in law and 3 nephews.So it’s always crowded we’re always like, “excuse me, excuse me.”

By Cecila’s junior year she was taking nearly all AP classes, plus a class dedicated to helping students get into college.

Alright, I need to sit down with you guys and go through this week a little bit.We have some details for your projects that we need to get squared away.

My freshman year I started AVID and they started talking about how college is really important.It's kinda like dare, like don't do drugs, but like Avid, go to college

We want everything to be in our digital portfolios.All I'm gonna do for you to turn it in is you say, "Hey I'm done" I'll slide it over to my computer.

I met Cecilia when she was an eighth grader when I recruited.She's just an awesome kid, ya know.And she wants to go to college, and want's to be somethings, so she works really hard.And she'll stress herself out sometimes too, but she works hard.She's a good kid.

Just south of Los Angeles, nestled between Compton and Bellflower was the city of Paramount, home to Keresoma, or as his friends call him, Soma.

I've attended Paramount since my ninth grade year, all the way to my Junior year right now. I play football, volleyball, rugby, track and field and I'm in the PI club.

The PI Club is a group of kids that want to learn how to do dances, Polynesian dances, Hawaiian dances.

On this day Soma and his classmates were headed to the Queen Mary for a special performance.

We have one specific dance for the boys.It's like a warrior dance called the Haka.

That was great.

The pacific islander community is very large in the south bay area.It's a very very loving community and everyone knows everyone.And everyone loves to dance and everyone loves to share so that's also very nice.

Keresoma is a very outgoing young man.He's already said, "Miss T, I want to be president of the club next year." and sometimes just throughout the day, he'll come in the classroom and say "Hi, give me a hug aunty" and then he'll leave.So he's just a sweet, sweet kid.

As the student's went about their normal lives across the nation there were concerns about the future of college access.

One of the tragedies of higher education is that still we're serving fairly select populations.

By continuing to cut funding what we see is that the institutions are forced to turn away students.

The United States used to be the leader in higher education obtainment, that is the percent graduating from college, and now we've slipped considerably.

Chicken strips, uh, chicken sandwich

Did you hear about our Bishop game?

Yeah, it was pretty cool.

My whole family pretty much lives in Lake Isabella.Like we're pretty much related to everyone, have a huge family.My grandma owns Cheryl's Diner and I work there, and it's fine.I have a job, I'll always have a job if I need it.

Outside

Okay, I'll go outside.

It's really great working with Jessica working with Jessica at the diner, and it's actually really great working with my family at the diner, ya know.And we've all done that forever.

I didn't graduate high school.I quit school when I was a senior.So that's why it's been so important for me to, ya know, have her succeed.

I get along with my mom very well.And it's nice because I know, like, hardly anybody has a relationship like we do.

Soma, what are you doing? You fix your food?

Yeah.

Okay.

I have a lot of family.Most of them live in America Samoa.I don't really know that much of my dad's part of the family cause he was like the only one from his family that came down here in America.My mom moved down here and I was born in Compton.

I came from Samoa in 1979.I was single.I got married here.I met my husband here.I didn't even know I was gonna get four kids, but God blessed me with four kids.

I'm a busy mother, you know.When they were young I took care of them.When my husband was here he'd help me, but now I'm doing the job all by myself.

Last year, March 5th.I was at the hospital with my pops and out of nowhere he started getting sick.I called my mom and my brother to come. And when my mom seen that he was struggling trying to breath and stuff, so my mom just told the doctors to take out the machine thing, and then... my dad passed away.And that's what happened.

Okay hurry up, we gotta go to church okay.

Okay.

Get Grandma.

Come on.

My pops, he always like pushed me to the limit.Even though it's hard he always told me to try my best and make sure you pray to God.

Soma knew that going to college would have made his father proud. So despite his families financial situation he was determined to find a way.

I don't have no money yet saved right now for college, but this one guy's helping.And he said in Massachusetts, um Harvard University, that they pay your way to college.So that's where I'm thinking of going.

What Soma didn't know was that Harvard was one of the most competitive schools in the nation and his 3.0 GPA wasn't going to make him a likely candidate.

I don't know how things go, if you have to have... like how much the college, if you have to have the whole amount at the same time is that it?I mean, I don't know, but I'll find a way.

But Soma, I'm so proud of him, ya know, "Mom, when I go to college I can make more money, you know, to take care of you and help our family."

While Soma's family worried about how they were going to pay for college, in Inglewood, Dontay's mom, Arlene, currently living on welfare, was worried about finding a job.

So, this is gonna be your new case manager and like I told you, I want to make it clear, I'm still here.So if you need anything call me.

Oh I'll call you.

I know you will.

I understand you're interested in recovery?

Yes, I want to get back, I want to...Ya know, it took a lot, it took a long time for me to want to be clean.And to actually can say that I'm two years clean, still, that's a lot.

Well I was on drugs for like twenty four years.It took me all the way down. I mean, really, literally, I ended up living in an alley.

In 2007, Arlene and her kids were adopted by Imagine LA, a non-profit organization that helps homeless families get back on their feet.

They're like my fairy godpeople.I'm just gonna put it like that.Without them, I wouldn't be able to have the kids back in my life.

That's my Dontay, right there.

Yeah.

He's gonna be an important part of everything.You're gonna meet him a lot.

You play basketball?

No, I play football.

Oh, no, he's football.

Football.

I'm basketball.

Yeah.

He's…that's my rock right there.He takes care of me.I'll come in here and don't do nothing and he'll come in here and clean up the whole house.He takes care of me.He does.He takes care of me.

That's my boy.

I made this book for my mom after we came back from visiting my dad, and I took lots of pictures.This is in Tijuana at the beach.And this is my mom and my dad.

My dad, he wasn't here when I was born.He was put into jail and then bailed out.And then January 25th I remember of last year, a law passed saying that any resident that commits a crime is immigrated out of the country.And he was in a detention center for a year and a half and just a few weeks ago they deported him.

This is a picture of my dad.He was trying to be funny there.

"Something in Spanish" - Cecilia's Mom

Memories.

Right now everything is uncertain.We might just go visit him over the summer when we don't have school and or we might just…I don't know.

As junior year was coming to an end, the college admissions process was just beginning.Step one: take the SAT.

To tell you the truth, the SAT was the hardest test I ever took in my life.Like I seen words, I didn't even know how to pronounce, how to say.So I'm gonna try to take the SAT as much as I can so I can get a good score.

I think I did pretty well on the writing portion of it. That wasn't very hard. But I don't know.We'll see when my scores come.

I'm taking the SAT test.That's coming on June 7th.I feel confident cause it's like any other test.All I gotta do is like pray to God and stuff to help me try to pass this test.

I'm taking the SAT and ACT.I've heard that they're really hard, and I wanna score lots of points so I can get accepted to a good college.

Every year, colleges talk about how much more competitive they were than the year before, so that anxiety around test prep is feeding this frenzy of how much test prep I can get and how much more my scores can go up.

Low income students don't have access to these test prep classes, and they tend to do worse on the SAT on average.

In fact, if you look at the national averages as family income goes up from $20,000 to over $200,000 a year, students' SAT scores directly correlate to how much their families make. 

That's not because the kids, rich kids are smarter, it's because of the opportunities that students have.

Baking soda. One teaspoon. 

And salt, right?

Get the sugar out.

We're all in each other's way.

Milk chocolate, right?

This summer went by so fast.

It's crazy.

And it's our last year.

Senior year's gonna go fast though.

Kayla!

We just made the cookie dough.

You're slow.

This is the first time we've all been together all summer.

What score did you get on the SATS?

Bad.

I got 15 something, but you got 17.

I don't know about you guys, but I already starting applying for scholarships.

Yeah, I've tried.

It's confusing. Yeah.

But I've done like 2.

I'm gonna go into talk to…

Fastweb.They're going to tell you to go on Fastweb and it's the most confusing thing.

Oh my gosh, that looks disgusting.

Yeah, my parents are gonna pay for my college, but since they're paying for my brother's too we're probably gonna take out student loans.

Don't take out student loans!

Well, you have to!How else are you gonna pay?

That's not that bad if you go to the one that's on the TV. I can't remember what it's called.

Astrive?

Yeah. It looks like a pretty good deal to me. I don't know.I'm just gonna throw that out.

I'm just saying, Ben.They're, I think they're still paying off.

Yeah, you're paying off for a long…

They do take a long time, but I mean

If you don't have the money, what are you gonna do, not go?

I know, I'm just saying

Okay, everybody listen up.Please come here.Today we're running the course.Run at a good pace.Don't run.It's not a race pace.It's not fast, but it's not your slowest pace either.Okay.We're gonna start in the corner.

It was still a few weeks before senior year would begin, but already cross country practice was underway.

"I once was so brave, no fear laced my faith"

This was Cecilia's 3rd year of cross country, and she was the 2nd fastest runner on the girl's team.Running had become more than just a sport for Cecilia.It was a way for her to escape the pressures she felt at home.

Hispanic women are expected to stay home and clean the house and take care of their husband.I don't want to be a housewife.I wanna be an independent woman.It's so hard to move away from the expectations and prove to them that I'm serious.

"I don't care what they say.I don't care what they do.I don't care anymore cause I'm living the proof.And I'm stronger because of what I have been through.And I know this is what I was made to do.Made to do."

My mom's thinking about moving to Mexico to go with my dad and she wants us to go with her.I'm gonna have to listen to her cause I'm not 18 yet and I'm scared for making these choices and changes. 

Okay, here, first and foremost we have got to work harder.I know there's a lot of us that are competitive and we don't like to lose.We all need to decide why we're here.

With summer ending, the reality of senior year was starting to set in.

Senior Year, 1st Semester

Senior year, I'm not even sure what to think about it.It's bittersweet. It's cool that we're seniors that you know we're finally there.And I know this year is gonna go by really fast which kinda scares me even more cause once it's over it's over.I don't know.Scary. Scary. Scary.

I have hard classes this year, and I'm not really looking forward to it.Drama 2.AP English, Math Analysis, Government, Econ, and Leadership. 

Have a good year.Be sure to see me first thing.Get started on those scholarships.

I know I need to talk to you about that.You'll probably be real busy the first week, but…

Anytime.

Okay. 

Just come in and talk to me.

Welcome back.

Today is the first game.Locke game.It's cracking. You see my voice, it's gone already. It ain't even started.It's so loud. We're so ready.Focused. The first game. Locke.Let's go.

We're very excited about this season.We have our work cut out for us, but we look forward to the challenge. 

Dontay is a big part of the process.He's going to be playing offensive guard.He's the fastest lineman in the nation.He's gonna be playing linebacker.We want him to hit people and hit them hard.

Defense on 3.Defense on 3.1, 2, 3 - Defense!

Dontay was intent on getting a football scholarship and today was his first chance to impress the scouts.

The LA Jordan program is one that I've watched in the years that I've been at SC to really come alive.We're here recruiting kids because it's a program that really does elevate kids' opportunities, so we're pleased to be here and here I am.It's the first chance to get out, and I came right to Jordan.

Nice victory.First game.42 - 17. Or whatever.You feel me, we knocked it out. First game, Locke game. LA Jordan, we on top. 

It went good. We got the win. We're ready for next week.

How'd Dontay play?

Great.He had his Dontay special. What'd he get? 24 yards on the Dontay special? About 24 yards on the Dontay special.He almost scored.

Cecilia's mom was making frequent trips down to Mexico to visit her dad.Tired of being left home alone and nervous that the trips would become more permanent, Cecilia decided to move in with her best friend's family.

We just didn't want to see Cecilia have to go to Mexico or go to another place.And my wife was like I wanna see her have the same opportunities as our children.

My mom, she's only looking for herself right now, and I understand that, but I'm looking for better things for myself and this is one of them.

I feel a lot more comfortable with this family.I feel like I actually can have a future with this family, and it's easier and I don't feel by myself.

We pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and the to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.Thank you.You may be seated.

Faites attention, s'il vous plait.Lui or Leur?

Lui.

C'est très bien.

Keresoma is a very unique young man.He has a lot of charisma and personality, but college is not usually something that's pushed in their culture.

In fact, Dr. Victor Thompson started this group called NPIEN, and what they're trying to do is expose the parents and the students to the benefits of going to college.

Qu'est-ce que tu achète a ton copain?

The mission of NPIEN is to help students number one believe that they can go to college.1 out of 10 Pacific Islanders actually graduate from college, so that's why our message is an important one.So it's helping them to believe and then secondly introducing them to members and other role models within the community.

Like many of his peers, Soma's educational goals were driven by his economic situation.In fact, 25% of Pacific Islander children live below the poverty line and college is often seen as their only way out.

This country is afraid of dealing with issues of class.And we have to recognize that poor students are predominantly underrepresented in higher education.

In our first generation communities, the most cost effective way to break the cycle of poverty is to get young people with a college degree.

With senior year well underway, Cecilia was the first student to meet with her high school counselor for her graduation check.

The first thing I want you to take a look at is your transcripts.So let's go over that.I see that you've been taking all the right courses, including your AP courses and honors classes and you've done very well.So, have you started to take a look at your scholarships?

No, I haven't but I'm planning to.

Okay.A lot of times family members can provide some money, too, and a lot of times aunts and uncles and grandparents have saved a little bit of money.I'm not sure have they done anything like that?

No.

No, yeah.

I'm on my own.

You're on your own?

Yeah.

Okay.You told me the colleges you want to go to, but what are the top 3?

UCLA, Santa Barbara, and Fresno State.

Right.UCLA is, of course, is difficult to get into in the sense that it has so many people apply, but a lot of times a good solid student can get into UCLA also but a lot of it is gonna be dependent on what you've got in your personal statement.Concentrate on that particular aspect.Keep your grades and then concentrate on that personal statement.So take a look at your own personal qualities, I guess, and what you've done.

Many low income students are doing it completely on their own.They may not have a parent who can help them through the process.A parent may not even speak English to be able to help them and give them feedback on their essays or edit it for them or justgive them any kinds of support.

They don't talk about going to college.Their moms and dads don't drive them around the fall or summer between 11th and 12th grade to visit different campuses.A lot of these students have never even set foot on a college campus.They think it's private territory, even if it's a public like UCLA.

Cross country.Do they have a good team?

Women's cross country.

Look how tall they are!Oh my god.

Wow.

5' 7, 5' 8. 5' 4. 5'9.

I'm 5' 4, okay.

Well, I'm 5' 1.

UCLA's my dream school.I don't know, just everything.I wanna be a Bruin.I just wanna get accepted there so bad.

Everyone who's in chapter 3, does anybody need the computer?Okay, it's all set up and ready to go.

Hopefully, you know I get accepted into a historically black college like Atlanta A&T, Georgia, Clark, what else Morris Brown, Morehouse.That's one big, you know, big dream that I have that can come true.

So the amendment process illustrates federalism by the amendments being proposed on the national level but they're ratified on a state by state basis.They propose like national like big, you feel me, the whole nation level, but they gotta be ratified by state by state.You feel me, the states, you feel me, gotta join together, you feel me, agree on.

If I get bad grades I can't play football, I can't run track, I can't do what I wanna do.So I gotta do what I have to do, to do what I wanna do.

Dontay's grades had been drastically improving since he got out of juvenile detention his sophomore year.Now he had an overall GPA of 2.8 and was working hard to try to make it on the honor roll this year.

Hi Jessica.

Hi.

Come on in.

We're gonna go over your transcripts, and we're gonna make sure that you're ready for college that you're on track.So as far as your standing in your class, there's 144 seniors this year and you are number 14 which is something to be very proud of. So what do you think you're going to do after high school?

I don't want to really leave home, like my whole family lives in the valley, and I don't have a problem commuting back and forth to a different city.

Some of our students haven't had enough exposure to the outside world, so as counselors our challenge here would be to bring the outside world in so that they realize that there's a whole world of possibilities out there.

I think your idea to stay near family is really good, but it also could be your back-up plan because you're bright enough that you could apply to just about any state college and you would be accepted.

She was talking to me about my class rank and my GPA and she was saying that basically I could get into any 4 year in the state that I wanted to, and I just didn't even know that.I honestly didn't think I could get in that easily.

All right.I have a lot to think about.

I think that going to a 4 year and living somewhere else would be really exciting but at the same it's gonna be really scary cause it's all new.You're not gonna know anybody, you're in a completely different place, and not have any security.

"Caught in between what you want and what you need, so come on, come on."

I'm definitely going to go to college, that's not going to change.It's just where and money and scholarships and everything. I don't know.I just have a lot to think about.

"You say that I should just slow down, but you know that I can't."

We've got a league race today.It's our last league race of the season.We're running against Stockdale and Centennial, two of our bigger rivals this year.So it's a pretty big race.

Cecilia's got a definite chance to run for several schools in California.Cross country doesn't typically give out 100% scholarships, but she's definitely the caliber for some of the smaller schools in the state to get a scholarship and run.

This race is my last race for cross country since I'm a senior, and I wanna do good.

Runners set.

"Gonna make you believe, make you believe.I'm gonna makeyou change from what you see.If you can keep up with me.I'm gonna make you believe."

After winning the first race of the season, Cecilia began to blow away the competition and ended up becoming North High's number one runner and one of the fastest girls in Kern Valley.

I qualified for State.I'm the only person from North High that qualified to State.

Well, I hope I get to see you again.Alright, man, you did a good job. Congratulations.

I had a coach from BC, he just told me if I wanted to run to contact him and gave me his card.

What's BC?

BC? Bakersfield College.It's here.They have a pretty good team, but I wanna go to a UC.

Bakersfield College or BC is the local community college that many students from Bakersfield and Kern Valley decide to attend as an alternative to a 4-year university.

Community colleges serve great purposes for particular kinds of students, but the reality is that upper class kids that could go to a 1st tier institution will because the support structures exist with their families, with their high schools and with their communities.In low college going schools, those support structures are totally absent.

The result is that at the 146 most selective schools in the country, 74% of students come from the wealthiest quartile while only 3% come from the poorest.

Watts is a community that's been abandoned by our society.Watts is a community that's where crime and gangs and drugs have been allowed to flourish.We have overcrowding in the neighborhood.People living in garages.A high rate of incarceration of at least one parent.A lot of one parent families.All of our students when you talk to them have been assaulted at least one time on their way to school, way home. There's not a day that goes by that we don't think about these things or our students are not being influenced by these things.When we come on Monday, we have to be concerned and thinking about what happened over the weekend.Who was shot?Who was hurt?We pray to God that it wasn't one of our students.

Hello!

How're you doing?

Good.How are you?Ready to do your grad check?

Yeah.

When you look at your graduation requirements there's an amount that's required for graduation, for a diploma, and then there's the recommended requirements for when you're applying to colleges. 

So in the spring you're gonna have Physics, Spanish 2, your senior English.

I gotta take Physics?

It's highly recommended.

That's gonna be all work.Physics, Spanish, and Math. That's gonna be…

It'll be work, but you can do it.

I personally believe that all students have the potential to go to college. It's definitely a possibility for Dontay.I mean he's got a lot of potential.The critical thing with Dontay, he's gotta keep in mind is managing the deadlines. 

So will you bring in your SAT score to me tomorrow?Now if you took it once before, will you take it again?

Okay, on your to do list.See Miss Cox for SAT prep class on Saturdays.And then I wrote Mr. Whitman also has the SAT prep during the week, so at least you have two options.But I think with your schedule you're probably gonna want the Saturday.Okay.Okay.

In low income schools, especially in California, the college counselor to student rate is 1 to about 800 students.Now think of that for a moment, that means that 800 students need to rely on one individual to go to college.That's not a very good number.

So, you're a senior now. Isn't that exciting?

Yeah.

What do you want to do after high school?

Well, after high school I'm trying to go to university college and do engineering or mechanic, anything that has to do with fixing stuff.

Fixing?What do you want to fix?

Like cars or computers.

You just like to hands-on fix things.

Soma realized that Harvard was out of his reach, and instead set his sights on the only school he had visited, the University of Southern California.

Well, my dream school is USC, but I don't know.I have to do a lot of work to get my GPA up that high in order for me to go there.

So these are the colleges and universities in the state of California that you can go ahead and take a look at.

Good.Do you have any questions for me?

No.

Okay, thank you.

And the kick is up…

It's the middle of my senior year.We're doing good.We're in the playoffs and everything's good.So I signed up for the ACT and that's the same as the big game, so if we make it I'm gonna have to reschedule that or something. 

The real challenge for Dontay or for any first generation student going to college is learning the system.Learning about the importance of SAT, ACT tests and explain to the student you really need to do take the SAT prep class to prepare for something in the future.

These tests is a must do for colleges, but right now you know since we're in the playoffs, I haven't even been thinking about the classes. We're just really thinking about this football.

Hey fellas, way to go man!Clap it up! Clap it up!

Ooh aah

Really, you know, the classes I'll take them after, after if they're still available I'll take them to help out with my preparation, but if not I'll just have to do my best and try my hardest, that's it.

Bulldogs on 3.1, 2, 3 Bulldogs!

Anywhere is fine.

Hey, Jess.

Hey.

What's going on?

Nothing.

Actually I'm waiting for Jess.

Okay.

I'm Jess' dad.

Are you? Well, that's…great.You want something to drink?

Iced tea.

My parents got a divorce my freshman year.My dad and our relationship is a lot a different now I'd say. I don't really see him that often, and it's sad and I wish it wasn't like that.

Sand, I think we're gonna eat outside.

Oh, okay.

I don't really talk to my dad a whole lot about school and college and things.He hasn't offered to help me, and I don't want to ask him.I'm not afraid to ask him, but I don't want to get in a fight, in an argument about it, and I know that it will.

So what happens if some of these scholarships don't come through?How do you think you'll be able to go?

Well, I don't know.I mean if I have to then I'll get a loan, I guess.That's not what I want to do, but.

Well, you're gonna waitress, right, this summer so hopefully you can save a little bit.

Yeah.I'm gonna try to save up as much as I can but I'm not doing well.I've got my car and my insurance and everything, and I have like no money in my savings.I'm not, I don't know, but…

I mean when I was Jess' age I always had to go out and work.Nothing's for free, I mean, that's not the way it's supposed to be.If you want something, you earn it.I've tried to instill that in my children, so well obviously it works cause she knows.She's working, she's been working for a few years now so. 

Well what about going up here for a little while, taking some of the classes you gotta have?

I don't wanna go up here.

Well, I know but if you had to.

I don't…I don't want to.I won't be…I don't know.I don't wanna go up here.

Well, they got a community college up here, Cerro Coso. I know there's some classes she's gotta be able to take.You know, in the world these days, you need a college education so they say so.I personally believe some of the people that go to college just cause they have a piece of paper doesn't mean they know what they're doing at least in the business that I'm in so.But I think it's great, and I hope she can follow through.

Well, at least if your'e staying up here you can work up here some.

It'll be fine.

See what happens.

I know that he loves me, and I know that he tries.But at the same time, I wonder how hard he's trying.

The California economy is getting really bad.It's really rough to keep up our mortgage payments.And work is getting really hard to find.We do demolition and we also sell equipment.And the housing market's gone, so there went all our equipment sales.So we decided to kinda move on to a place with a lot more stable economy.

We're doing this because we know it's better for us, but at the same time it's the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my whole entire life.

I just found out that Michelle's parents and her family are moving, and I have to make a decision of whether I go with them or I stay with my mother.I love my mom, but it's just hard living with her.

Have you spoken to your mother about moving out of state?

Yes, she said she wasn't okay with it but she was going to let me do what I wanted to and what I needed to do.

Leaving my senior year is traumatic.And no matter what happens, I'm gonna go to college.So it doesn't make a difference really.

The number one driver of economic growth in the United States is the college graduation rate of the adult population.

The cost to the economy ran in the on the order of 400 to 600 billion dollars from the fact that we are not providing the same opportunities to low income students. 

And we've done research that's highlighted how for every dollar we invest in higher education, we get a $3 return.

We're talking about demand.Demand is what drives any economic system.You can't sell stuff without it.

I should've went and talked to my counselor about applying to colleges early and for her to help me. Cause right now I'm really struggling through applying to it and the money thing.

Soma lived with 9 family members in a 2 bedroom apartment.Because of the cramped quarters, Soma slept on the couch while his mom made her bed on the living room floor.With such a close-knit family, Soma's mom was concerned about him moving away for college, so she sat down with him to talk about where he wanted to apply.

USC, where's that?

Over there, LA.

So it's near, right?

No, it's a little bit far.

Yeah, but you can stay on campus, too?

Yeah, but my counselor said I have to this on my own so I'm gonna go to the career center and try to ask questions. 

See, Soma, this is a new thing.Like, how is things going?Who's gonna pay the fare and everything?

That's why I'm signing up for FAFSA.

What is that again?

Financial aid for students.You get money for colleges.

That's good.So how long you gonna be in the college?

4 years.

Oh my god.4 years.You're my only son who's gonna move out from the family, and I don't know how I'm gonna take it.

I took my SATs for the second time and I scored a 1000 times better.The first time I received 990 and the second time was 1950. 

Unbeknownst to Cecilia her new SAT score and outstanding GPA, made her a competitive applicant to any of the top 50 schools in the country, including UCLA. 

I still need to apply to UCLA of course.I really want to go there so bad.

I think for Cecilia, UCLA is a possibility as long as she has that connection when somebody's reading her essay.She's an AP student.She's smart.She's dedicated.So she's gonna have to focus on what she says on her personal statement and how much she wants to give of herself on that.So if she can get that done on time and it can be well-written, I think she'll have a good chance.

I was offered a scholarship from Robert Boyles, the cross-country coach for CSUB.But if I get into UCLA, I'll go there no matter what.No matter if I don't get any financial, scholarships or anything. I'll go there.

Like Cecilia, Jess had also heard from Cal State Bakersfield.

I applied for CSUB and I got a letter on the spot pretty much because we had a lady come in from the school and she just came around and checked everybody's GPA.And she had letters for everybody already, so it was kinda funny and kinda cool at that the same time that I got into a college.

CSUB, I don't know.I mean it's a university, but…it's just everyone gets in there.

Here we go, fortune tellers and diviners, let's review quickly what happens to these guys.

Okay, their heads are backwards, remember.Look, they can't see in front of them which is significant because fortune tellers and diviners wanted to?

See the future, k?

If I could win the lottery or something, Berkeley is a good school or UCLA or any…I've actually thought about those schools.It's just the expenses of everything just puts a limit on a lot of stuff.

Jess, like many students across the country, was looking at schools based on their published prices, but what she didn't know was that the financial aid she would receive due to her parent's income would greatly reduce the cost of attending.

You know, $70 an application is a prohibitive factor for students who are from low income backgrounds.Yes, they can get fee waivers, but a lot of times they're not even aware of how to ask for the fees to be waived.

Taking on debt on the order of $19,000, which is the average debt that college students come out with today, is an enormous undertaking for a family that's living paycheck to paycheck.

Every year people take out loans for houses, cars, and education.And if you look at how those investments pay off over 30 years, a home should give you about 6 times your initial investment.A car will lose its value, but a bachelor's degree will raise your earning power $22,000 more a year.And over the course of a lifetime, a college graduate will earn $1 million more than a high school graduate, multiplying that initial investment by 52.

Down in Inglewood, Dontay's football season had ended with no prospects of a scholarship.Now he and his mom were wondering how they would pay for college. 

I know you wanna go out of state, out of state.I know you wanna go to one of them black colleges and I know the tuition on them is way out of range.

All the money I spent over the years on drugs could have been his college tuition.I think about stuff like that.Me not be able to help him myself…you know, it doesn't make me feel less than, it's just, I wish I could.

And what did the counselor say about applying for these black colleges?

She's like the first thing, your room and board and everything is gonna be higher for you, like way higher, because you're not a resident.

Although Dontay understood that many schools cost more for out of state students, what he didn't realize was that the colleges he was interested in were private schools that didn't charge out of state tuition.

I really got to get this Cal State out of the way, so that can be like a for sure I can get out of here.Basically, black colleges I wanna go, but if I can't go I'm not about to cry about it.Wasn't meant for me, obviously I guess or something, but I'm still gonna try.

It ain't over til it's over.

Basically, you know. 

You're my responsible child, you are.You're the one gonnna make momma proud, I know.That's a good thing.

I'm gonna try my hardest.

I know you are.That's what makes it all okay.

We're here at the California State Cross Country Championships.All the best schools are here. You get a lot of division one colleges here scouting, recruiting kids to go to college next year.

This is my first time making it to state, and I'm very excited.At the beginning of the season I thought it was gonna be like every year: second place.But it turned out differently, and I'm happy, you know.I'm happy where I'm at.I'm happy how I feel. 

Runners, take your mark!

"Tonight, we're fighting for life.We lift our eyes hoping to find that our dreams are more than hopes to survive.Tonight, we're fighting for life.And we lift our eyes, hoping to find that our dreams are more than hopes to survive."

Finishing my cross country season my senior year feels good.Like a hundred pounds of weight came off me, that's how I feel.I have to do everything for UCLA by Sunday.I hope I do.I hope I get it done.

This will be against the wall, don't you think.

Yeah.

Cause it looks good from that side, so that's what we care about.

Jess, you wanna plug this in to that one.

Yeah.

I love those.

Aren't they cool?

Yeah.

Okay, so, I'll sit here and hand you guys ornaments, how's that?

When I got my senior check, my counselor told me that I qualify to go to any UC.

Uh huh.

And I was surprised by that.

Why were you surprised?

I don't know. I just didn't think about that.

Well, I know but you shouldn't be surprised. You're smart.

Jess doesn't seem to give herself enough credit as far as her ability to do things.And you know it's frustrating to me sometimes cause I she is smart and she could go anywhere she wants to go obviously.They're telling us that that's what she can do, but money's always a factor so that's a big issue.

I don't know.I'm just scared to go anywhere.

Why are you so scared?

Well, I mean, the expense of a UC in and of itself is a reason not even to consider it.It's just, I don't want to regret it after awhile.

Why do you think you would regret?

I don't know cause I want to get a bachelor's.I mean, I would be okay without it.I would be able to get a good job without it, but I don't know.

You know it is going to be a little difficult because you know we get child support from your dad, and that's gonna end on your birthday.Have you approached that subject with your dad?Because you have gas, you have books, you're gonna be driving back and forth.

I don't think he'll help me.

Why do you think that?

I just don't think he would.

Well, it would be real easy for him to throw you a couple hundred dollars a month just for whatever.And it's gonna be hard for you to have a job to cover your expenses is all I'm saying.

It scares me.I'm scared.I've got 7 months because I have a $400 check that I get every month and that's gonna not be here, and I'm scared to death.And I don't want you to feel pressure.

I'm sorry.I'm sorry.I haven't. I try to hold it in. I try to cover it up, and it doesn't.I'm sorry.

That's what would help with going to BC though.It's not…it's way less expensive than going to a Cal State, and all the scholarships you can apply for and hopefully get.A lot less stress on you and your mom.

Yeah. Whew.

You okay?

Yeah.

Senior Year, 2nd Semester

Every year, Soma and his family attended the NPIEN awards which celebrates the Pacific Islander culture and helps families learn about life after high school.In the Samoan culture, there's something called fa'alavelave.Fa'alavelave is an important part of our culture which means when someone is in trouble we give back to help that individual.The problem is that when you're making minimum wage it's very difficult because you're in a cycle of giving and giving and never getting ahead.So in working with parents, we try to teach them that as you go to college you'll have more earning power and then you'll be able to contribute to fa'alavelave and still get ahead with your own families.

Are you guys ready?

Who has the baby oil?

We need a kiki for her!

I have to get everybody get ready, get set, make sure everything's going good, going great and then we'll be solid.

They gave out awards and I got mine. This is a medal for having a good GPA. I have a 3.2 GPA.

It was the end of February and Dontay had one more week before the historically black college applications were due.

There are 4 different types of writing that we need to cover in the next 17 weeks.There's narrative, expository, persuasive, and description.If I wrote to you that the the Lakers are the best basketball team in the nation is that expository, persuasive, narrative or descriptive?

Persuasive.

I got a slick one over here.Good job.Why is it persuasive?

Because that's like you giving your opinion.You're trying to make them know why they're the best.You're trying to persuade them to see why the Lakers are the best in your words.

That's good.That's all I got.Thank you guys for being a good class.If you guys can put up your stuff and we'll be out of here.

Originally I had a 4.0 straight A's, but now you feel me I got an A and 3 B's.It's the honor roll. It's posted up in the office and all that.You feel me, my name Dontay Gray, 3.25.You know I'm trying to do all I can do for my senior year.

You see Dontay Gray, 3.25, Honor Roll 12th Grade.Nothing too big, just a little something, something.I try hard and all that.

Where are you at in the in process in terms of filing out applications?

Really to tell you the truth, I haven't filled out no applications for out of state or nothing.But I gotta really buckle down and do it this week though, so that's one of my goals for the end of the week.Gotta start getting on these application cause it's gonna be too late.You feel me, deadlines coming soon, so I gotta really buckle down and do what I gotta do.

Do you know when the deadlines are?

No, I don't know when any deadlines are for any schools, so I could be too late for some of them.So I gotta go in there and do what I gotta do ASAP.

These first generation students are getting a competent education.But they're not getting the same kind of education that students from private and suburban schools get.An education that's 24 hours. An education that's at the dinner table, at the breakfast table, an education that's on the car ride to the country club, an education that inculcates them into the culture.These first generation students have a much more limited perhaps quality, but a much more limited introduction to American and world culture and that's a significant deficit that they face.

By the spring of senior year, Cecilia had moved out to Tennessee with her best friend's family, but as she settled into her new high school she began to regret her decision.

When I just moved here to Tennessee, I felt very sad because I couldn't get into school. I was behind. Everything was just going wrong. And I miss California.I miss my teachers. It just makes it easier your senior year to be around people you know. Here, I feel like an outsider.I have had to be on my own my whole life, but school was there for me. They were like my parents, and I think this place made me grow up.

By April, colleges had finished sending out their acceptance letters and financial aid awards and now the students had to decide where they would attend.

Up in Lake Isabella, Kern Valley High School was giving out their senior awards.But the real excitement would come later that evening with the announcement of the local scholarship winners. 

Today you will feel the pride as each student steps forward for special recognition in the area of academics. 

I don't believe the students at Kern Valley High School understand the whole college process.Because Kern Valley High School is designated by the state of California as a high poverty school.That in itself speaks volumes.Our students come from families for the most part have not gone to college, some are not even high school graduates.Many of our students come to us from families where just putting food on the table is an issue.

For excellence in economics, Jessica Chevallier.

Being in a small town is stuff, because I guess if you're in a bigger city, you know where to go.You know what to look for, you know who to talk to, but up here the opportunity as far as what to choose isn't always there in front of your face. 

English Advanced Placement, Jessica Chevallier.

My dad wasn't there today, but he said he was gonna be there tonight. I invited him, but he wasn't able to cause he's working.So, it's okay.

Okay, Drama, Jessica Chevallier.

There's a local scholarship application that we got awhile ago, and it goes out to 60 different organizations around the valley.So this night we get the results from that.This is sort of like the big deal here.Hope I get something.

Well, good evening.This is actually one of my favorite nights because what a great night.We get to give kids money to go to college.

One of the things that we battle here is the fear of the unknown is what it really is.Because no one in their family or no one they know, any of their friends have experienced any of those issues or problems associated with moving away to go to college.Leaving the valley means leaving what they know.

I have the Bank of America Achievement awards. For English, Jessica Chevallier.

I would like to present two $1000 scholarships to Jessica Chevallier.

Jessica Chevallier.

Jessica Chevallier.

Jessica Chevallier.

Jessica Chevallier.

I'm going to BC.Right now, it's a lot cheaper to go to Bakersfield College, and it's more of a career based school and I could get a job right away.

She got five awards, too.

I missed…I should have been to that.

This afternoon.

I did want to go to a UC, but it's $50 just to apply so I just decided not to and then it sorta got too late.There's so much to think about, you know, what could have happened and things like that.I just…I don't know.

With the football season long behind him, Dontay was putting all his efforts into track.

I do the 4x1 relay, 100, and 200 meters and anything else that they need me to do.So hopefully, you know, we're gonna you know take this, everybody from Jordan.

I really did wanna go, you know, out of state to a historically black college but I wasted a lot of time you know just procrastinating and putting it off.So actually I decided I'm going to Sacramento State in the fall.

"Look at me, like a shooting star all around the world.Cause I'm a different kind of man than I used to be, used to be scandalous, used to be vandalous. Never let no punk get the upper hand of this, but everything can change in a moment like this.I forgot the dreams that I used to dream, like a little kid saying prayers through the window screen.I'm gonna keep on running, ain't gonna stop at nothing.I can see the light at the end of the road.Get out the way, I'm coming.Ooo, look at me now."

I'm very excited that Dontay's going to Sacramento State.He's excited, I'm excited, but I'm scared at the same time cause I'm gonna be losing my boy, my baby.He's growing up on me.

Financially, I don't have a clue, so I'm putting it in God's hands. Hopefully, he'll have a job by then.You know, a couple of jobs cause he's gonna need a couple.I wished he could go wherever he wanted to go, but we really couldn't afford that, him going out of state somewhere.Come on now.I mean, so no, it wasn't in our budget.It wasn't really in the plan.That's just something he wanted to do, but it wasn't gonna work. 

The Eastern League Champs in the varsity guys this year goes to Coach Butler, Jordan High School.

The payments is, that's one thing I'm still working on.It's a big thing in my mind, too.But, well, I got accepted for the FAFSA. It's financial aid, something, something, something.So that's one thing that's going help me potentially make my payments and do everything I have to do for Sacramento.

In the middle of senior year, Soma's family upgraded their living situation from a 2 bedroom to a more spacious 3 bedroom apartment.

My old place I was sleeping in the living room because there wasn't that much room but now over here it's much easier cause I can go somewhere where I have to sleep.

In this room, it's me, my older brother and his wife.This is their big king size bed. I have my little small bed over there.Yeah.

When it came time to apply to USC, Soma found out that he didn't have enough prerequisites to qualify for admission.

I was really bummed out about no one telling me those requirements that I needed to take 3 years of science and 4 years of math, so that didn't really work out.So i just applied to Cal States.

I am tortured when I encounter a student at a high school visit or a college fair who has the aspiration of becoming a doctor.And as I talk with them about their preparation and discover they've never taken chemistry, they've never taken biology, they don't plan to take physics, and they don't know.

And how do we support those kinds of student services, expanding counselors, and creating that college going culture so that students can get information and actually go to college and go to college that's a good fit for them.

Of the schools that Soma did apply to his first choice was Cal State Long Beach, one of the higher ranked Cal States, it was also close to home.

Thank you.I want to welcome you to our awards night.

I got home from school from practice and my mom said you got mail.From where? Cal State Long Beach.Oh, man I hope I get this. So I got the letter. I was praying for a little bit, opened my eyes, opened the letter. I looked it, opened it.Oh, got accepted!

Getting accepted to Cal State Long Beach was exciting but money was still a concern.Luckily the financial aid letter came through in a big way.

When I seen how much I was getting I was so happy. I was like oh my gosh, I got this much money.

Finally, our 12th grade students who made the honor roll, after your names are read, please come forward and stand on the risers.

It stated in here.See I have all the mail, but I put this inside my purse so I don't have to lose it.Everything right here, it say the total $18,054.

Keresoma Leio.

I am so glad that one in my family is going to college.

For many families, college sticker prices can be intimidating, but what most don't realize is that families making $40,000 a year pay only a fraction of the annual fees due to the financial aid they receive.

Me and the Parkers got into an argument about which college to go and where was best for me.And, like, I need to make my own decisions, so on April 25th I'm going back to my old high school, North High School.And I'm graduating on May 29th.

I really wanted to go to UCLA. I was very set on that idea, but things change and I was, like, I had one paragraph in my essay. Okay, and I just didn't…I just didn't want to write everything about my whole life.They asked 3 things that have made me inspired to want to succeed in life, and I just didn't want school to pity me or something. I don't know. I just didn't want to write about my whole life.I just gave up.I gave up on the application. I've decided to go to CSUB because they offered and I signed a full contract with paying for everything.

If I would've gone to UCLA I would have had to pay for full tuition, dorms, everything. I can't get that kind of money. I filled out FAFSA, but I haven't heard anything from them.The best decision I made was out of, like…I was desperate, and I know that's the best choice right now. I just thought everything out, and I'm on my own so I made the best decision.

The assumption is the cost of college is formidable when in reality there are loans, there are grants that are available if students know how to get to them.

Poverty throws a lot of barriers at young people.And they're not only barriers that make it harder to get to school, and they're not only barriers that make it harder to get to school or get an AP physics teacher, but they're also the barriers that narrow just the view of what you think is possible.

Is Dontay here?

Can I borrow him?

While Dontay had been accepted to Sacramento State University, by June he still hadn't receive his financial aid offer.Afraid that Dontay wasn't going to make it and knowing that he had no one else to turn to, his counselor stepped in to make sure everything got sorted out.

Hi, my name's Kelly Gilmore and I'm a counselor with Los Angeles Unified School District and I'm helping one of my seniors.He is, he's right next to me.So I know you're gonna wanna speak to him. We're just following up on our phone call on May 15th.

Hello.

Um…I need to check my financial aid cause it's saying stuff on the website. It's estimated $20,000 and it says total aid of zero. 

Alright, so you said I have to turn in this and my social security card and then once they get it, it might take, you said, 4-8 weeks to process. 4-8 weeks.

Okay, what about the fact that that's going to be late for you arranging dorms?

So, um, they said you have to pay something before July 1st?

Uh huh.

Are you just on hold?

Uh huh.

Just stay there.

Hi, I have a question for you.When we called in the middle of May, they didn't say that they needed the social security card.And they said it's gonna take 4-8 weeks to finalize his aid package.Okay, um, what do you guys usually recommend for students that don't have $1000?They can't even make payments on that? All right, have a good day.

Okay, with the housing, we have to do it right now.But by July 1st, they need $1000.

I don't even know.$1000 by July 1st.

Is there any way maybe you have relatives you could borrow from until your aid kicks in?

$1000.

I know.

Well, I could try, you know.That's a month, too.That's what I'm saying.

I know.

Well, yeah, so I just know what I gotta do so I can go to college, and if I don't do it then I'm not gonna be going like this.

While the future remained uncertain for Dontay, there was one thing that all the students could celebrate: high school graduation.

1…2…3

Going to BC doesn't bother me. I've finally…I'm okay with this.I used to have doubts and regrets, but Ethan's decided to go there, too, and that's another reason for my choice.

I motivate myself to inspire the young ones, like my little nieces, my little nephews.And my little nieces are like, man I wanna be like him.And I like hearing that from my little nieces and nephews: I wanna be just like Uncle Soma. 

A reminder, you've got about 10 minutes to use the potty, all right?So make sure you do before you get out there, cause if you have to go, you're stuck.

I'm graduating honor roll.I'm graduating with a 3.9 GPA and only 2 people received athletic scholarships, and I was the only one with a full ride.So I'm excited.I'm pumped.

I think I have changed my family's perspective on women.They used to think that women were stay at home people, like get married, that's it, there's nothing else they can do.And my mom used to think like that until she went to one of the orientations from CSUB with me, and there was a Spanish speaking counselor that explained everything to her and that's when she totally changed the way she thinks and she supports me more.

It is with great pleasure that I stand here today to welcome you to the commencement exercises of the class of 2009 here at Jordan High School.

At some point every student will have to make a decision at least once about which way am I going to take my life.So students like Dontay turn themselves around, make the right decision?Yes, and that's a miracle that we're grateful for.

Well, graduation is a big accomplishment for me and you know my whole family cause I'm gonna be the first person that started from kindergarten to 12th grade, no mishaps, no dropouts, nothing going straight in, the first one to graduate on time.

I got all A's and B's my whole 12th grade year.There's not one C, nothing.You know, of my family, really they know they don't have to worry about me. I've been handling my business, doing my stuff, so I'm ready to be on my own, basically, that manhood. You feel me.

Thank you, Class of 2009.

Cecilia Lopez, North Honor Society.

Keresoma Leio.

Jessica Marie Chevallier.

Dontay Gray.

Please stand.

I hereby certify that these students have met all

requirements set forth by the Board of Education of the Paramount Unified School District

and the graduation requirements of the state of California.Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you, the Class of 2009.

9 Months Later

This semester I got a late registration date, so I ended up taking medical terminology up here at Cerro Coso.And I got my philosophy class down at Bakersfield, and then I'm taking just a child development class up here.

It's kinda funny to think that I had almost a 4.0 most of my high school career, but I didn't go to a university.I ended up at a JC which is fine, but it's just funny to think about that to me.

Things probably would have been different if money wasn't the issue, but it was.

It's not the whole college feel, like, I know that it would be different at a university.But I don't want to say I regret it because it'll make me feel bad about my decisions, and I don't wanna feel bad about them.I just don't.

Only 21% of low-income students who start at a community college will transfer to a 4-year university.

Less than 1/4 of those students will earn a bachelor's degree in 6 years.

It's kinda hard living on your own.This is my food.I don't have that much stuff.

My first day going to Cal State Long Beach, everything was going good, going to class.Then I started getting low scores on tests.I started studying less for tests cause I didn't have time to do it, and just basically staying focused on having fun and not doing what I'm supposed to do in college.

Away from the support of his family and NPIEN, Soma struggled with the transition to university life and was forced to transfer to a local community college.

For the next two years, I'm just basically trying to stay focused on taking my GE classes for me to fulfill the requirements for me to transfer back to Cal State Long Beach.

About my dad, I think that he's really proud of me just being in college, and growing up to not be a ghetto person or being a person that's a gangster. But I'm just glad that he's watching over me.

Nearly 90% of first generation, low-income students drop out of college.

This is 4 times the dropout rate of higher income students.

As soon as I graduated, I moved out and I painted my room pink. I bought my bed sheet.I'm very happy to live on my own.I feel responsible for myself.

I ran at UCLA last week, and during the race I beat some of the UCLA girls.And that's when I felt like I could've gone there.

Once Cecilia was in college she realized that there were a lot more opportunities for low income students, especially ones like herself who did so well in high school.

I wish I would've known that there's a lot of financial aid.I did know about that, but I didn't believe it or I thought other people, like oh, it's not gonna be me.

Remember the arms, Cecilia.

I never had anyone tell me, like, hey, if you're low income you can get free college.I always thought once you go to college, you're on your own, and that fact always scared me. 

I feel like if I would've pushed a little harder, I could've gone to UCLA.I could've made it on my own, and it's kinda sad now. 

59% of low-income students eligible for first-tier universities enroll in less selective schools or forego college entirely.

Nearly 2/3 of these students don't even take the risk of applying.

When we last saw Dontay his financial aid package was up in the air, and he was worried he wouldn't be able to afford college.

After graduation, I just tried to get all my paperwork in and everything ready to come to Sac State.What ended up happening was since you know the financial state my parents were in, I ended up getting the maximum amount to cover everything.

Well, Sac State it was such a journey to get here.You know, me finally being here is a blessing.It's the ultimate place: the dorm rooms, girls everywhere, it's a nice environment.So I'm just excited and glad that I'm here.

I think that the system changed my life, you know, my jail time and everything, and I wouldn't change it because it made me the man I am today.You know, I'm a prime example of coming from nothing to something, a bad person turned good.And so, in the future, I want to go back to the camp that I was at and work there and try to show the young youth that they can change.I just wanna help people like I got help, try to bring some light into somebody's day, change their whole meaning of life.That's what I basically wanna do, help the young people, help somebody change their life.

Dontay finished his 2nd semester at Sacramento State with a 4.0, and he has hopes to walk on the football team his sophomore year.

The talent is out there and the question is can we as a nation put the tools in the hands of these young people so they can chip away at those blocks of poverty and contribute so much more to their lives and their community.

By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.That is a goal we can meet.That's a goal we can meet.

We applaud the amazing work you and your institutions do to help students move forward and contribute in the world.

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