Strive group shot

SJSU “Strive for College” Mentors Help Students Succeed

Strive group shot

Del Mar High School students stop at the Smith Carlos sculpture for a photo during a campus tour organized as part of the Strive for College mentoring program.

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Michael J. Carter came up with the idea for Strive for College, a national nonprofit, many years ago after transferring from a private to public high school.

“I made a lot of friends in AP classes who got great GPAs and SATs, but were the first ones in their families to think about going to college,” Carter said.

He was struck by how many of his peers lacked the guidance or resources to navigate the admissions process, and that was the origin of his organization.

Founded in 2007, Strive provides low-income high school students with college mentors from campuses nationwide including SJSU and Stanford.

Award Winning Program

According to Carter, about 400,000 low-income high school seniors qualify for a four-year college annually, but end up not going because they are unfamiliar with the application process.

Carter was fortunate enough to receive a merit scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., and as a way of giving back, brought the idea of providing college counseling to inner city high schools to his scholarship director.

During the fall of his freshman year in college, Carter launched his first mentoring program between Washington University and juniors at a nearby high school. Strive quickly expanded to 10 chapters across the country. In recognition of his vision, Carter was recently named a 2011 Echoing Green Fellow.

“I saw that under-resourced students didn’t have the information or guidance to find the resources they needed to apply for the best-fit schools.” Carter said. “Building a movement of college students on college campuses to help reach high schools and deserving students get into college became the most cost-effective, most leverageable, and most impactful ways to solve this problem.”

The SJSU Connection

In 2008, Strive partnered SJSU with Del Mar High School in Campbell, and in a year doubled the amount of mentors as well as the number of students going to four-year colleges. The partnership is still going strong.

The Associated Students of SJSU’s Cesar E. Chavez Community Action Center recruits, trains, and operates the Strive for College program at Del Mar, under the direction of an SJSU student coordinator.

Senior social work major Veronica Carrillo has mentored at Del Mar for a year, and her first student is expected to attend Chico State this fall. As a mentor, Carillo helps her students choose the right college, find financial aid, sign up for SAT and ACT tests, and create personal statements and essays.

“I realized that those who don’t get the opportunity to go to college don’t need much. They just want someone to guide them,” Carillo said.

Incoming freshman Shanna Brancata, a foster youth who was in the Strive program, was chosen to give the commencement speech at Del Mar High last June. She plans to become a Strive mentor at SJSU this fall.

“Through this program I found the confidence to get into college” Brancato said. “Strive made me believe in myself.”

Interested in becoming a Strive volunteer? Contact the Cesar E. Chavez Community Action Center at (408) 924-4144.