Spartan East Side Promise offers window into collaboration, new opportunities

Dr. Mary A. Papazian

As I continue to reflect on the wonderful fall commencement ceremonies that took place late last year, I have also been thinking about another generation of future SJSU graduates now working their way through the local education system.

One of my ongoing goals for San Jose State is that we walk the talk when it comes to inclusion and expanding opportunities for local students to attend a four-year university. The Spartan East Side Promise program offers a great example of our commitment to aspiring students here in our own backyard. It also serves as a model for what San Jose State and its surrounding community can accomplish when we partner and collaborate on matters of importance to all of us.

Recently, a number of students from the East Side Union High School District visited our campus, and I had the pleasure of offering them a warm San Jose State welcome. It was the first visit to a college campus by many of those students. We called it “Spartan East Side Promise Preview Day.” The staff members here at SJSU who put on this event, including those in our Student Outreach and Recruitment (SOAR) office, did a magnificent job!

I believe the students who visited with us really enjoyed the experience, and my hope is that what they saw and learned will motivate them to come back, perhaps to pursue a degree at San Jose State. While I told them it was okay if they ended up at another university, I hoped we would see them become San Jose State Spartans!

We are in the second year of the Spartan East Side Promise partnership, and the results to date have been excellent. We already have seen a 39 percent increase in applications and a 47 percent increase in enrolled students from the East Side Union High School District.

Building on the success we have seen, discussions currently are underway with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo to expand the effort into all of Silicon Valley. Like this program, the Silicon Valley Promise program would support and encourage a college-going culture within all of the region’s local schools. So the students currently taking part in the program are modeling how this can work for other students in the area.

We hear a lot of talk these days about how difficult it can be to attend college, largely because of the cost. At the same time, we know that nothing ensures a successful future more than earning a college degree.

My message to our recent high school visitors that day was that they can attain a college degree, that they do belong. I also reminded them that a college degree can change their lives and the lives of their families and their communities. Through programs like Spartan East Side Promise, we will help them to get here. Then, once they are here, we will support them and help guide them through their college career and prepare them for a successful, meaningful and impactful future.

College can seem overwhelming, especially for first generation students. During their visit that day, these students met many people from different cultures and backgrounds.

But that is the beauty of the college experience at a diverse campus such as ours! Campus life offers such a treasure trove of activities, things to do, people to meet, topics to learn about and so much more.

There are campus clubs for just about any activity or interest one might have. And once new students are here, we do everything we possibly can to help them succeed, graduate and prepare for their career. We have the dedicated instructors, wonderful facilities and strong academic programs.

San Jose State truly is a special place.

The East Side Union High School District students who visited us that day—and the dedicated SOAR Admissions Counselors who planned and arranged the event—clearly are committed to education, and that is an important first step in their journey. I trust they will continue to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them. Hopefully, we will see them back here soon as new Spartans!