Alissa Macklin, a freshman art major, volunteered to share her Spartan story with dozens of middle school students at the African American College Readiness Summit on Feb. 13
“I had a rough start in middle school,” she said, noting that her grades dropped and her GPA bottomed out at 1.167 when her parents divorced. “I was going through a lot, but I learned you can’t let a situation with your family end your education.”
Macklin said she worked extra hard in high school to increase her GPA by taking classes from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. While she considered universities in Chicago, she opted for San Jose State to be close to family members who live in the East Bay.
“Chicago is cold and it was far from my family,” she said. “I wanted to be close so I could go to my parents’ (homes) to eat.”
Macklin was one of many SJSU students, alumni and community members who talked to hundreds of middle school students from schools in Santa Clara County about how they can prepare for college. The two African American College Readiness summits – a fall event for high school students and a spring event for middle school students – served at least 1,000 students this year.
The program is one of many hosted at San Jose State with K-12 schools and community partners to foster a college-going culture in Santa Clara County. As part of SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success, university leaders are focused on working with partners to increase college readiness. The plan calls for increasing participation in the college readiness summits from 1,000 to 1,500; increasing College Day participation from 1,400 to 2,000; and increasing participation in the Advancing Latino/a Achievement and Success conference from 1,000 to 1,500 students, among other initiatives. The pillar aims to ensure high school students are eligible for CSU admission and prepared for college-level courses.
Macklin, who wants to be a teacher and an artist, advised students to seek out help to understand financial aid, stay positive about their ability to thrive in college and to make connections on campus.
“I got involved in a lot of clubs such as the Black Student Union,” she said. “Only four percent (of SJSU students are African American), but we are close knit.”
Katasha Blade, a teacher with one of the visiting middle schools, also talked about her journey to college.
“I wanted to become a teacher because I was in foster care with one sister,” she said. “I didn’t grow up with parents. I wanted to be a teacher to help other people.”
Blade, who attended historically-black Hampton University, in Virginia, said she focused on keeping her grades high, preparing for college entrance exams and engaging in extracurricular activities. While in college, she said she had two jobs and took 18 credits a semester.
“You have to know that you can do it,” she told the room full of middle school students. “Never settle. You need to push yourself harder.”