Original URL: http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/index.php?page=local&story_id=112203a1_town_hall&PHPSESSID=653608f539c9589f3769110937df0976
TOWN HALL Why not college?'
Parents urged to prevail
No obstacle that can't be overcome, speakers testify
NOVEMBER 21, 2003
'It's vital to instill in your children that 'you are going to college.' And
don't limit it just to Pima or the University of Arizona.' - Serra Tsethlikai,
1986 Sunnyside High graduate who went to Notre Dame and then the University of
Southern California College of Law
Determination to prevail over roadblocks is a key attitude for families who
understand the importance of their children going to college.
That was the main message at last night's Tucson Citizen Town Hall, "Why Not
College?" at Sunnyside High. About 300 people attended.
Sunnyside Unified School District co-sponsored the event.
Members of the audience added their own inspiring experiences as examples that
obstacles, whether real of myth, could be overcome.
Come from a big single-parent minority family? Set your sights on Stanford or
Notre Dame, said Serra Tsethlikai, who graduated from Notre Dame.
No money? "Don't even worry about it," said moderator Chico Rico of Mega 106.3.
Various speakers noted the availability of loans, grants and scholarships.
Even Tucson Citizen Editor and Publisher Michael Chihak said he was the first in
his extended family to go to college - but certainly not the last. He was
followed by his younger brother and 20 cousins - all because the adults in his
family didn't give the children a choice.
"The adults weren't saying, 'He should go to college' or 'He could go to
college.' They said, 'He would go to college,' " Chihak said.
Tsethlikai, a 1986 graduate of Sunnyside High, a Native American who came from a
single-family home with six kids, echoed that advice to parents: "It's vital to
instill in your children that 'you are going to college,' she said.
"And don't limit it just to Pima or the University of Arizona," said Tsethlikai,
now an attorney in the local U.S. Attorney's Office, who went to Notre Dame and
then the University of Southern California College of Law.
Bigger colleges were out of the question financially for Elizabeth Federico, who
has a son in Pima Community College and a daughter who will graduate from high
school this year. "I hear there's money for college ... but where's the help?"
Sunnyside High graduate Armando Valenzuela, now at a teacher at the school,
suggested school counselors as a good start: "Eat lunch with the counselors, get
to know the counselors," he said. "The squeaky wheel gets the oil."
While speakers talked of a plethora of scholarships and grants available,
Tsethlikai said, "Don't expect that it's going to be given to you. I'm still
paying student loans," she said, "but education is an investment and it's worth
Tsethlikai isn't the only Sunnyside graduate students in the South Side school
district can try to emulate.
The Sunnyside Foundation, which raises money for endowments and gives out
minigrants and scholarships, has other prominent alumni in its ranks, including
Tucson Police Chief Richard Miranda; Pima County Superior Court Judge Paul Tang;
attorney Raquel Arellano, also in the U.S. Attorney's Office; Assistant Tucson
Fire Chief Dan Larkin; attorney Rick Gonzales; and engineer Michael Barton.
But still, everyone knows "the most influential person is the parent," Rico
said, "even if kids don't want to admit it."
Giehzi Jauregui, a 10-year-old who already has decided she is college-bound,
walked up to the microphone just to say thanks to her parents "for staying
beside me, and my teachers for encouraging me." It brought tears to the eyes of
her mother, Veronica Jauregui.
Parent Clarissa Carranza said many people just give up on everything about their
children's education if they can't help them with their homework. But there are
so many other things they can do, she said.
Still, she admitted she hadn't really talked to her son about going to college
when he was growing up. It was a $140 scholarship her son, Alexander Carranza,
won at last year's town hall that got him to register at Pima Community College
- and now he's there full time.
Adriana Molina knows the importance of being a good example - and the result.
Her son, Samuel Olivarria, was one of the speakers last night. The Sunnyside
junior wants to become a pediatrician one day, and said it was his mother's
example that led him to value education and set high goals.
The family, knowing hardly a word of English and with no money to its name, came
to Tucson many years ago after Samuel's father died. Molina, knowing she had to
make a better life for her children, went back to school to learn English and
then graduated from UA. She's now a teacher at Sunnyside
Kathy Dong, a Sunnyside graduate who last May graduated from Northern Arizona
University and is a first-grade teacher at Sunnyside's Liberty Elementary, said
her concern is, "When we leave here today are we going to go back to old ways?
"This has to matter now," she said. "We have to go back to PTOs (parent-teacher
organizations) and ask, 'How are we going to make the changes?' "
Dong said she has seen too many of her peers when she was younger telling
others, "College is not for everyone."
Said Chihak: "Insisting that your children go to college - that's the thing you
need to take from here."
RAISING COLLEGE-BOUND KIDS:
Create a supportive environment by encouraging children to:
Visit high school career centers
Take electives that fulfill college and university entry requirements
Take classes that provide vocational training, such as computer classes
Take classes at Pima Community College for future college credit
Volunteer in the community
Visit college campuses
Explore career opportunities and job shadow
Tackling the financial burden:
Browse scholarship packets and books in counselors' offices and career centers
Perform a free scholarship search on the Web at www.fastweb.com
Fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid on the Web at