One of the reasons UC Merced is located in the San Joaquin Valley is to help provide post-secondary education to previously underserved populations.
UC Merced doesn’t allow itself to sit fallow and allow its existence alone to draw new students in. Early on in development (specifically, April 2002), the Center for Educational Partnerships (CEP) was founded. The CEP website puts their mission this way: “The Center for Educational Partnerships was established to effect long-range improvement in the education of Central San Joaquin Valley students and ultimately increase the number of area students eligible to attend institutions of higher education.”
With the help of Citibank and other major companies, the CEP is doing exactly what it set out to do. Citi recently donated $33,000 to the program to benefit area high schools, and encourage the students to attend a four-year university. More specifically, the Citi donation is allotted for the “Parent Empowerment Program”, which is designed to help parents understand the particulars of college and its applications, as well as support their children in their college dreams.
One of the schools in Modesto that UC Merced redirected the donation toward has already had their first Parent Empowerment Program, and posted about it on their own Twitter page, boasting a “full house” of parents at Grace Davis High School on March 27. The program at Grace Davis is newly founded, and other programs in Modesto and Turlock high schools are also being formed with the Citibank donation. $23,000 has been allocated for these Stanislaus County schools. The remaining $10,000 is supporting the continuing Parent Empowerment programs in Madera.
Freshman Valeria Martinez, the first in her family to attend college, said, “I didn’t even know what the FAFSA was ... My parents didn’t know either, they never had to deal with that.” What Martinez’s situation was is still the case for many San Joaquin Valley high school students and parents, and what the CEP is trying to mitigate.
“Hopefully more parents will get involved [with programs like Parent Empowerment] because it will help them learn what their child needs for college,” Martinez remarked.
Citigroup, the parent company of Citibank, has a history of donating to charitable causes. In a press release on the UC Merced website, Brian Hepburn, the managing director and division manager for Citibank’s Growth Markets Division, was quoted as saying: “Citi is committed to expanding access to higher education for underserved individuals and families…Education is at the heart of economic empowerment, and through the Center for Educational Partnerships’ innovative program more California students will have the opportunity to pursue a college degree.”
Hepburn noted the CEP’s innovation with good cause. CEP has some data about their impact on the parents of high school students who were involved in the Parent Empowerment Program, and the results affirm the program’s mission. “Based on pre/post surveys, the number of Parent Empowerment Program participants who learned whether their child is eligible to receive a Cal Grant increased from 17% to 59% (for the year 2004-2005) and from 30% to 81% (for the year 2005-2006).”
Citi also has a feature available to their ThankYou Rewards members that allows them to donate points (which eventually translate into money) to charity. So it isn’t only the company donating money to various philanthropic causes, they encourage their credit card users to do the same.