EastBay Today

Feature
Posted October 3, 2016

Made of Hayward

Cal State East Bay students tip the scale toward college for local, underserved teens

Gabby Delgado was seven years old when a single event made her aware, for the first time, of the two challenges that would shape her life: She couldn’t speak English, and her family was at risk of being deported. 

Her mother was away, attending the funeral of Gabby’s grandmother in Mexico, when she was prevented from returning to the United States because she didn’t have citizenship papers. Delgado’s father, a construction worker, couldn’t care for Gabby and her sister alone, so he sent them to stay with family in Southern California until the documentation could be sorted out.

It was there that Gabby’s aunt began taking her to preschool classes alongside her younger sister, just to quickly get her into some type of school. Over the course of a month’s time, as she learned alongside toddlers, her trouble with English became painstakingly clear. 

“I didn’t even know the days of the week. That’s how bad it was,” Delgado recalls.

She also remembers overhearing the adults in her life wonder at how she had gone under their radar for so long. “My aunt noticed and told my mom, ‘She doesn’t know much. I don’t understand why these children in preschool know more than her.’”  

the answer

Today, at the beginning of her sophomore year at Cal State East Bay, as she reflects on a journey that began with repeating the second grade, on how she’s never been to the beach, or gone camping or seen snow (“I guess because my father didn’t have a license we couldn’t risk it”), Delgado seems determined not to show any shame, quick to assure that it’s fine to talk about it — though she rushes through the hard parts.

 She lives minutes from the university’s Hayward campus, just blocks from Harder Elementary where her younger brother, eight, now attends, and a little farther from Tennyson High School, where she graduated from and where one of her sisters is now a senior. Delgado’s other sister, 12, is at nearby Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School.

by the numbers: Inside Hayward’s Jackson Triangle Neighborhood

 11,345 total residents (3,442 households) • 46 percent of residents are English as a Second Language speakers • 17.4 percent of residents are living below the poverty level compared to 15.9 percent for California • 32 percent of household are female-headed compared to 19 percent for California • Ethnic Diversity: Hispanic / Latino: 55 percent; African American or Black: 15 percent; Asian: 10 percent; White: 10 percent

The neighborhood where she lives is known as Hayward’s Jackson Triangle — where families struggle with poverty, a high rate of single-income, female-headed households and nearly twice the state average of English as a Second Language speakers.  

It’s also where an initiative called Hayward Promise Neighborhood, now closing in on the end of its fifth and final year of grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education, targets the students in those homes — kids whose financial and family circumstances make it easy for their educations to derail.

Delgado was first introduced to HPN as a junior, when Cal State East Bay students began circulating as tutors in a common lounge area at Tennyson High School, and where she, motivated by another deportation scare, was seeking help with pre-calculus.

“Towards the end of my sophomore year, my dad lost his job because he didn’t have papers,” she says. “It was like, ‘Gabby, you need to wake up and you need to start working, and you need to get good grades because if you don’t, how are you going to go to school?’” Her voice breaks ever so slightly over the last few words but quickly firms up again. “I got a job at Panda Express … and in my junior year, I was just like, ‘I’m going to work and I’m going to take AP classes and I’m going to make it.’”

how it works

“These are students who aren’t entitled,” says Carolyn Nelson, dean of the College of Education and Allied Studies at Cal State East Bay and principal investigator on the HPN grant. “And it’s fun to show them, through the opportunities that HPN provides, that they are — they are entitled to a college education, a career of their choice and all the same success as their peers.”

Nelson is referring to the web of programs that HPN supports (see What Makes a Promise Neighborhood), provided through a variety of Hayward community partners and funding administered by Cal State East Bay. The focus is on creating a pipeline that supports children from infancy through college, with family services added in that make it easier for parents to focus on their children — services like free prenatal care, a community food bank, access to computers and technology training and more.

And it’s working. Over the past four years of data capture, a spike of 149 percent has been seen in the cumulative enrollment from Tennyson and Hayward High Schools into Cal State East Bay. On campus today, this includes not only first-time freshmen, but also students who are persisting with their degrees through their sophomore and junior years.

Just ask Roxana Cruz, who used to be the UC Berkeley early academic outreach advisor in Tennyson High’s college and career center, where she first met Delgado.

by the numbers: cal state east bay’s service-learning impact

29 service-learning students • 2,127 students in HPN schools served • 2,424 tutoring hours • 1,356 college and career advising hours • 240 hours spent supporting community events

“My job was to collaborate with staff on campus to build a college and career-going culture. I encountered great people wanting to help with that goal, but [there wasn’t] enough [of us] to really create the impact that we wanted to have,” Cruz says.

According to Cruz, who left that position to cast a wider net as HPN’s outreach coordinator for service learning at Cal State East Bay, it’s the HPN interns — formally called service-learning students — who are helping turn the tide. Cruz says the interns were invaluable when it came to calendaring events and marketing them at Tennyson, which enabled her to focus more on the high schoolers. But, she adds, there are intangible benefits to bringing Cal State East Bay students to the local high school campuses as well.

“I was fortunate to get two interns [from Cal State East Bay’s HPN program] during my time as coordinator at Tennyson, and they are really able to help the [younger] students see themselves as college-going,” she says. “Even though their parents might tell them or their teachers [that they can go to college], it’s easier for them to connect with people who look like them, who are similar in age, who are from their neighborhood — it helps them believe college is real for them.” Cruz adds that already about one-third of service-learning interns from Cal State East Bay are graduates from local schools, a number she hopes to keep growing.

Marisol Pena, for example, a fifth-year senior at Cal State East Bay (double majoring in Spanish and Health Sciences), works at Hayward High School. Though Pena wasn’t able to benefit from HPN programs during her time in high school, she knows firsthand the different obstacles local students face, including, at times, discouragement from attending college.

“He didn’t want me to go,” Pena admits of her father. “My dad would say, ‘You’re going to get married and have kids — why do you want to spend all that money on school?’”

But when a cousin just a few years older than Marisol became a single mother and left college, her father began wondering how his own daughter would support herself in a similar situation — unless she had an education.  

“After that happened, my dad changed his mind,” she says. “[He] heard from his boss what a great school Cal State East Bay is and he [said], ‘You’re going there. I don’t care if it takes you 20 years to graduate!’”

Pena is now indeed juggling three jobs, going to school and living at home while helping out with her younger brother, whom she was conveniently able to drop off at Hayward High on her way to the academic advising center last quarter.

“The kids that came in [to the advising center] — it was split between somewhat knowing [about college] and not knowing at all,” Pena adds. “And, if they think college is a possibility, they don’t consider a UC or CSU or a private college. You see every side of it. We [would] go into the classrooms to tell kids about the deadlines and application process and a lot of them are like, ‘What is that? Where do I go?’ They don’t know what’s available to them with financial aid and how to apply.”

“The service-learning piece is huge in what [Cal State East Bay] students are giving back to our schools and our students,” echoes Hayward High School Principal David Seymour. “I think [the high school students] take [the reality of going to college] a little more seriously,” Seymour continues, “from the Cal State East Bay students than if an administrator or a teacher or a parent says ‘You [have] do this and you [have] do this’ — it’s someone who’s roughly their age actually living it, and the kids get a lot out of that.”

full circle

The hope is that once they’ve been mentored through HPN, the students will be inspired to pay it forward.

WHY SERVICE LEARNING

Service-learning internships at Cal State East Bay are paid positions that offer students from any department or major the chance to gain relevant career experience while giving back to the Hayward community. Hayward Promise Neighborhood and its partners offer numerous programs for students to get involved in, including but not limited to, tutoring, college advising, drop-out/truancy prevention, family counseling, health screenings and more. For more information contact Roxana.cruz@csueastbay.edu.

“Ms. Cruz was like a second mom to me back in high school,” Delgado says. “She helped me with everything — Cal grants, scholarships, personal statements, CSU applications — she was really there for me. And when she came to work at Cal State East Bay, she sent me an email saying, ‘You were helped by HPN, you should work for us.’”

This, Delgado reports, after she chose Cal State East Bay from among the five CSUs she was accepted to. She settled on CSUEB because it gave her the best financial aid package.

“Some things are hard to capture in data,” Nelson adds. “There are these aspects of change in human lives that you can’t capture in numbers, but when you hear the stories … universities will always give degrees. But we are re-envisioning the purpose of the degree in such a way that it is much more meaningful, a best practice that is tied to lifting up the community around the university — and teaching students the importance of giving back to it.”

At least in Delgado’s case, it’s an easy connection to make. After taking Cruz up on her offer to apply for a service-learning position with HPN, she spent a year tutoring kids in reading English at Harder Elementary with the HPN partner Super Stars Literacy program, and was then able to use that experience to obtain a job that paid double in fall 2016.

But her eyes still well up when she describes what it was like working with the third-graders.

“I saw myself in them, I guess. I know I was one of them once, and I needed a lot of help back then. I was really patient, too, because I know that used to be me. And just talking to them — every single day you could see the change. It makes me really happy to have been a part of that.” 


What Makes a Promise Neighborhood

 The Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) in Harlem, New York, is the model for the nearly two dozen Promise Neighborhoods throughout the United States today. HCZ has existed in some form since 1970, but in the late ’90s, under the leadership of children’s advocate Geoffrey Canada, a different approach to supporting at-risk youth began to form: Take all the interventions available within a community and offer them via a single pipeline that supports kids at every stage of life. 

“Children can have challenges at any stage of their development, so it’s necessary to have programs in place over the long term to make sure a temporary crisis does not have life-altering consequences,” says Anne Williams-Isom, current CEO of HCZ (Canada retired as CEO in 2014 but maintains his role as president). “In order to break the cycle of poverty for an underserved community, we need to guarantee all children have the supports they need when they need them.”

Since its inception, HCZ had garnered national and international attention, and has been featured in the “New York Times,” on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and in the controversial documentary, “Waiting for Superman,” among many others.

In 2010, based on the success of HCZ (which reported a 93 percent college acceptance rate across its high school programs in 2015 alone), President Barack Obama announced the spread of the “Promise Neighborhood” model throughout the country. In 2011, Hayward was one of the first full grant awardees to receive $25 million, spread across five years.

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