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Rio Mesa retains academic outreach coordinator

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Rio Mesa High School students won’t have to look far for an expert’s help in filling out the paperwork necessary to attend college.

The Oxnard Union High School District board renewed a contract last week with UC Santa Barbara to keep Griselda Sanchez, an academic outreach coordinator, on the Rio Mesa campus.

The program, started seven years ago, will cost the district $25,000 this year.

“It’s nice to have on a campus, in addition to our regular staff of counselors, somebody directly focused on making sure students are getting what they need to go on to a highly selective university,” said Bill Dabbs, assistant superintendent of educational services for the district.

Sanchez has been with the program since the start.

She said the early education program is open to all students at Rio Mesa High and serves between 90 and 100 students each year.

“No one is turned away, but one of our main focuses is a student who is the first generation to apply for college,” Sanchez said. “The focus is for students to understand the different pathways of going into any college, either a community college, university or private college.”

The outreach department offers campuswide classroom presentations aimed at recruiting freshman and sophomore students interested in attending college. It also reaches out to the school’s top students.

Students who are enrolled in the program are monitored by the department throughout high school to ensure they keep their grades up. The program also provides tutoring workshops to improve study skills and a guide to financial aid paperwork.

“We explain how to apply for financial aid, and I think it really gives them a clear understanding of the pathways and possibilities available to them after high school,” Sanchez said.

School officials credit Rio Mesa’s early academic outreach program, the only one of its kind in the district, with the school’s high acceptance rate to University of California schools this year.

Rio Mesa’s class of 2013 saw a 62 percent acceptance rate to schools within the UC system.

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