Deep Dive in Five: The Spartan East Side Promise Program
Azusena Reyes, ’23 Computer Science, was the 2019 recipient of the East Side Promise Scholarship presented by San Jose Earthquakes. Reyes is one of hundreds of Spartans who have benefited from the program since its inception in 2016. Photo: Jim Gensheimer.
In the six years since San José State University established the Spartan East Side Promise Program (SESP), a college preparation program supporting San José’s East Side Union High School District (ESUHSD) students and their families, the program has seen a 50% increase in enrolled students.
A program of SJSU’s Student Outreach and Recruitment team, the SESP provides a pathway to admission at SJSU for ESUHSD students through a variety of interactive programming that specifies admission requirements and fosters connections to campus and community resources.
This fall, the SESP is accepting applications for the 2023-2024 academic year. In this new installment of our “Deep Dive in Five” series, I sat down with Spartan East Side Promise Program Lead Amanda Aldama Fernandes, ’14 Sociology, ’21 MA Counseling, to learn about the program, who’s eligible and how it’s grown since its inception.
1. What is the purpose of the SESP?
Amanda Aldama Fernandes: There are two main functions of the program: recruitment and retention. Students graduating from one of the SESP eligible schools apply for admission to SJSU between Oct. 1–Nov. 30 of their senior year. During this time, they are encouraged to attend our admissions and application workshops as well as engage in other programming elements, such as our flagship event SJSU Preview Day.
Applicants are then reviewed for provisional admission through SJSU’s competitive admission selection process. If an eligible student does not meet the eligibility index score for their intended major, the Spartan East Side Promise guarantees an offer of provisional admission as undeclared to qualified ESUHSD applicants with a 2.75 GPA or higher.
2. What is the ESUHSD Spartan Summer Program?
AAF: The ESUHSD Spartan Summer Program is a 10-day hybrid program that provides incoming ESUHSD freshmen with academic guidance, connections to campus resources and an opportunity to build their peer support network. Students meet with academic advisors from their college success centers, prepare potential schedules for their first semester, engage in cohort-based activities, take a campus tour and meet individually with their SESP peer mentors to ensure they are prepared to start in the fall.
This past June, 43% of ESUHSD admits attended the summer program — and this fall, 98.2% of all ESUHSD students who attended their Sparta Camp orientations and remained eligible after final transcript verification enrolled for their first semester.
3. How has the program grown over time?
AAF: Prior to the inception of the Spartan East Side Promise in fall 2016, 1,608 ESUHSD students applied for admission, and 436 enrolled for their first semester. This fall, 1,903 ESUHSD students applied for admission, and 658 enrolled for their first semester — a 50% increase in enrolled students.
4. How has the program influenced student retention?
AAF: In regards to retention rates, recent reports have consistently shown that ESUHSD students have higher one-year retention rates than the overall SJSU enrollment. During the shelter-in-place/hybrid period of the pandemic in fall 2021, 93% of ESUHSD students who completed ESUHSD Spartan Summer Program and attended their Sparta Camp Orientation enrolled for their first semester, a rate 7% higher than the overall university retention rate for that term.
Taking a look at the cohort overall, not just the summer program participants, 95% of Fall 2021 ESUHSD admits remained enrolled through the end of the 2021/2022 year. This fall, 98.2% of ESUHSD students who attended their Sparta Camp Orientation and remained eligible after final transcript verification enrolled for their first semester.
5. Tell us about the partnerships you have with other organizations and the support that has brought to the program.
AAF: The work we do is incredibly collaborative. One of our major partners is the East Side Education Foundation, an organization that provides scholarships to first-year and returning students who participate in our programming. To my knowledge, 76 scholarships in varying amounts have been awarded from 2020 to 2022 by the East Side Education Foundation — and more than $90,000 contributed this fall alone.
While our partnerships and projects continue to grow, a previous partnership of note was with the San Jose Earthquakes, who from 2018 to 2020 awarded one student each year with a full first-year’s tuition and campus housing expenses (only 2018 and 2019). Azusena Reyes, ’23 Computer Science, received one such scholarship.