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 Support Program Helps JCCS Students Enter College

​A mentorship and support program that’s a partnership between education and law-enforcement agencies is helping some of the students at the greatest risk of dropping out of school succeed at San Diego City College.

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE), San Diego County Probation Department, San Diego City College, and San Diego State University have worked together on the program, which is paid for with grant money from the Parker Foundation.

“I think the program is reflective of what can be done when people collaborate to support students and their education,” said Stephanie Johnston, a support supervisor with SDCOE’s Juvenile Court and Community Schools.

There are 40 students supported by the effort. All are men between the ages of 18 and 24, either Hispanic or African American, and have been on probation.

The first group of students started this fall. Another group will start in spring.

A similar program for women is expected to start next year.

These Parker Scholars, as they’re known, get extra help during their first year at the community college with the ultimate goal of preparing them to transfer to a university. They get peer mentors, extra counseling, a $250 stipend, priority registration for classes and a personal growth class that helps them explore possible careers, apply for financial aid, and navigate college life.

“Really what we’re trying to do it create a peer support network for the students,” Johnston said.

Students who have finished their first semester in the program are even able to serve as guides for the newer students through their personal growth classes.

Participants must have no previous college coursework, enroll in at least six units each semester, qualify for financial aid, and agree to fully participate in the various classes and meetings.

The effort helps students from poorer neighborhoods see themselves as successful adults, said Marilyn Harvey, director of development at San Diego City College.

“These gentlemen oftentimes, are walking the walk that society has laid out for them,” she said. “They’re the future of their community, and it’s our hope that with some support and encouragement, we can help them use the power that’s within them.”

The program grew out of the annual Passport to Life Career and Education Expo, which helps hundreds of young people who have been on probation learn about opportunities and resources.