Span and LERN 51 Make Navigating College Easier for San Francisco International High School Graduates
By Elizabeth de Rham, Literacy Coach, San Francisco International High School and Karen Orellana, Span Student
One of the transformational programs of the ACE Learning Center at San Francisco International High School is Span – an advocacy and academic counseling program for recent graduates enrolled in college. Span Scholars meet as a group on their college campuses with the Span Coordinator and key on-campus personnel to build support networks that allow them to successfully complete college. This support is truly crucial to ensuring that our recent immigrant students succeed in college. The vast majority of our students are the first in their families to go to college, and all need help accessing the financial and academic resources that allow them to persist in their college education.
For the last two years, the Span program for students attending City College of San Francisco has been anchored by a credit-bearing class called LERN 51, taught by one of our Span Coordinators, on the CCSF campus itself.
Before Thanksgiving vacation we checked in with Karen, one of our Span students, to find out more about how Span and LERN 51 – all made possible by the ACE Learning Center at SFIHS – helped her start out strong on her college journey.
Tell me a little about yourself.
My name is Karen Orellana. I am 19 years old and I came from El Salvador in June 2015.
When did you start school at SFIHS? How did you feel when you first started?
I started in tenth grade. When I came, I was surprised to be in class with people from many different countries who spoke different languages from me. I felt afraid because I didn’t know if I had the capacity to learn English. How was I going to speak with people? How was I going to do my schoolwork? Everything was new: I was in a new school, I did not have friends yet, and all the systems in this country were different.
What did you think about college when you started at SFIHS?
I was interested in college, but I didn’t really think I would go because I didn’t know if I could. I didn’t know if I would be able to speak enough English or afford to pay for college.
What are you doing now that you have graduated?
I am taking classes at City College San Francisco. I am taking Child Development and two prerequisites: Math 70 and ESL 184. I am deciding whether to become a teacher or a guidance counselor.
What do you do in Ms. Oksana’s class (LERN 51)?
Ms. Oksana helps us figure out what classes to take, how to navigate the different class schedules, make sure we take the right prerequisites, and know when we have to register for different things. The class has also helped a lot making sure everyone knows the different degree options. Ms. Oksana invites someone from CCSF named Ms. Leti who explains scholarships, financial aid/FAFSA, Clipper Card, and all the things that make it possible to cover the expenses of being a student. We can also get individual advising during office hours after class.
How does the LERN 51 class make a difference to you and other SFIHS alumni?
It supports us with all the things we need to be successful in our first year of college. I can’t imagine trying to do college without it. I think if we didn’t have LERN 51, everything would be much harder, and some students would probably just give up on college. If I was alone, I would probably give up. There are a lot of expenses, and so much that is new and different. LERN 51 helps us with all of that.