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By Henrietta J. Burroughs        Follow East Palo Alto Today on
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Ocober 8, 2013                        
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Mayor Abrica with local community college students
                                         Photo by East Palo Alto Today
Mayor Ruben Abrica is shown speaking during a 'Welcoming
Reception' for local community college students that was held
in East Palo Alto on October 5, 2013.


How do you support local community college students? East Palo Alto’s Mayor, Ruben Abrica, posed that question last Saturday during a 'Welcoming Reception' he held for city students attending local community colleges.

The evening reception took place in the community room at the Municipal Building in East Palo Alto and it was open to students who attend such schools as DeAnza, Foothill, Cañada, Chabot, Laney, Evergreen, Skyline, San Jose City College and the College of San Mateo.

A core group of students, who seemed passionate about the subject, showed up for the informal reception, which provided pizza and soft drinks.

Abrica started his presentation to the students by explaining why he was holding the reception. He told the students that he got the idea for it a few years ago when he was invited to speak to the Multicultural Association at DeAnza College in Cupertino.

One of the students at the DeAnza meeting mentioned that there wasn’t enough support for students at the college or for community college students in general. Abrica said the remark started him thinking about how he could change the situation.

The students at the mayor’s reception agreed that the lack of services for community college students was a serious problem. Sela Jimenez, who attended West Valley College and now works as the library monitor at the East Palo Alto Library, said attending college can be hard for this generation of students. She said that she knew several students who wanted to be independent and were working and trying to go to school, too. 

“They were struggling,” Jimenez said. “More people I know would go to college if they had more support. They would be more motivated."

Ana Torres agreed. Torres, who attends Foothill College in Los Altos also works for the City of East Palo Alto in the city manager's office and for the city’s finance department. “If people had more support, it would help them stick with school,” Torres said.

The students and Abrica discussed other challenges community college students face. They pointed out that many students did not have their family's encouragement. They did not have adequate or affordable day care. They didn't know the right classes they should take or even how the college system works.

Angelica Torres, who also goes to Foothill College, said that she had not thought about going to college until she was a senior in high school. So, she recommended that high schools invite representatives from local community colleges to visit the schools to tell students about their colleges.

The students and the mayor discussed the possibility of forming a nonprofit organization that would set up a scholarship fund to provide students with financial assistance. 

They agreed to hold future meetings to which college alumni, teachers and counselors would be invited to speak to the students about the resources that are available to them, and they discussed how they could reach out to more students to invite them to their meetings.

The group plans to meet again on Friday, November 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Municipal Building at 2415 University Ave. in East Palo Alto. All East Palo Alto residents and those living nearby, who attend local community colleges, are invited to attend the November meeting. Those seeking more information can contact Mayor Abrica at (650) 380-4987 or send an email to rubenabrica@gmail.com or to Ana Torres at atorres.jobs@gmail.com.


Henrietta J. Burroughs, the author of this article, can be reached by email at epatoday@epatoday.org.