PALM DESERT, Calif. - Local school leaders are joining forces hoping to better prepare high school students for college, and in turn, increase the number of local college students who graduate.
Robert Gonzalez just started his freshman year at California State University San Bernardino in Palm Desert. He graduated from Coachella Valley High School knowing he wanted to go to college.
"To me its really important because it shows a lot more than a high school diploma," Gonzalez said.
After college, he wants to work in law enforcement, specifically he'd like to become a border patrol agent. After researching several schools, he chose to stay here in the valley.
"Honestly, this was the best place for me because I get to stay closer to my family and again its in the community," he said.
Gonzalez plans to complete his 4 years of college, but it appears local college students are more likely to drop out.
According to school officials with the Coachella Valley Unified School District, out 80% of their graduating high school students, 30% will go on to college, but only 16% will actually graduate with a degree.
"For us that number is unacceptable," said Superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School District, Daryl Adams.
That's why school leaders of the Palm Springs, Desert Sands, and Coachella Valley Unified school districts are partnering with Cal State San Bernardino.
"What's happening here today is really transformational and historical," said Tomas D. Morales, President of the Cal State San Bernardino Palm Desert campus.
They signed an agreement Monday that will guarantee all local qualifying seniors admission to Cal State San Bernardino and its Palm Desert Campus.
They say it'll start with making sure high school students in all 3 districts are prepared for college before they graduate.
That will in turn help increase the number of in-going college students and the number of those who fully complete a 4 year program to earn a degree.
"Hopefully in the future if they build some dorms, we're going to flood this place with students," Superintendent Adams said.
"I think its an awesome idea, because before this, all we had was cod and a lot of kids were like 'uhhh' they didn't have any other choice, so this offers like new open doors," Gonzalez said.
Now that they've signed the agreement, school leaders say they still have a lot of work ahead.
They'll be working with staff and students in order to come up a plan to help those students prepare for college.
"We envision pier tutoring and pier counseling and role modeling and really sending a clear message to students that in order to be successful in college you should be college ready," said Morales.
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