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Santa Barbara Police Chief Honors Summer Academy Graduates

Sanchez speaks from the heart in praising the hard work of College Readiness Academy students.

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Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez addresses graduates of the College Readiness Academy on Tuesday. (Mollie Helmuth / Noozhawk photo)

Young scholars of the College Readiness Academy were honored Tuesday afternoon at Casa de la Raza by Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez.

Funded and staffed entirely by the Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement program at UCSB, CRA’s intensive five-week curriculum is focused on building math and science skills for students entering eighth and ninth grades.

“The academy is really to prepare for college in general and explore careers,” CRA Director Andrea Medina said, “but the first step for them to even start to think about that is to complete algebra.”

The daily schedule is broken into two hours of algebra, one hour of career preparation and one hour of communications, in which each student writes a full research paper. The students also have taken field trips to Santa Barbara High School, the Museum of Tolerance and the Santa Monica Pier

Sanchez’s heart for the academy comes from both his family background and his 29-year career history as a police officer. “We have tragedies and youth violence,” Sanchez said, “and we are never going to arrest ourselves out of the issue. We have to do other things.”

With 100 percent parental involvement in the program, Sanchez says CRA “enhances family unity around education,” as an opportunity not only for the 42 students to prepare for college but also for their families.

The ceremony was about honoring the students, who will graduate Thursday evening, for their hard work. Sanchez talked about his family, who moved to the United States from Mexico when he was 7 and didn’t speak a word of English.

“When I was your age, I made a few bad decisions,” Sanchez said. “The first time I rode in a police car I was in the back seat, if you know what I mean.” He spoke about his father’s motivation to get Sanchez an education and the pressures he felt to rebel against his parents.

“My father sacrificed so I could learn. Thank your parents for the sacrifice,” Sanchez said.

Christian Martinez, a 14-year-old student at CRA, said having Sanchez speak was “exciting. He’s the chief of police and my dad is kind of like his dad.” Martinez is going into ninth grade next year and plans to go to college. 

At the end of the ceremony, Sanchez told the students he had written letters to each of them. “It took me three days, but I did it, and they are all different,” he said.

The Santa Barbara City Council and Mayor Marty Blum were in the audience. Blum congratulated the students, telling them that the council postponed its meeting to support the program.

The academy, on its second class, has grown since last year, when 35 students graduated. Medina says MESA plans on “keeping it small.”

She says the program is held at La Casa de la Raza because it promotes community and parental involvement.

Noozhawk intern Mollie Helmuth can be reached at [email protected]

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