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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 2:33 pm | Fair 63º


CSU Channel Islands Receives $1.1 Million to Support Low-Income, Disabled and First-Gen Students

Participants in the CSU CI program STAGES Click to view larger
Participants in the CSU CI program STAGES (CSU CI photo)

CSU Channel Islands (CI) this week will host a group of low-income, first generation freshmen and transfer students in a program called STAGES (Summer Transition for Academic Guidance and Educational Success).

The STAGES program is possible thanks in part to a $220,000 grant CI received this summer from the U.S. Department of Education for CI’s Student Support Services (SSS) program, which sponsors STAGES.


STAGES is a three-day program that gives low income, first generation or otherwise disadvantaged incoming fall semester students a chance to meet with advisers, faculty, financial aid counselors and a host of others dedicated to helping them navigate their first year at CI.

The Director of CI’s Student Success Programs, Leah Alarcon, said CI will receive $220,000 annually for five years, totaling $1.1 million.
“This grant will help us maintain the level of service we’ve been able to provide these students and continue the one-on-one connection they need,” Alarcon said. “Over the years we get very close to the SSS students.”
The SSS program is one of eight federal TRIO programs, which are designed to provide practical and academic assistance for students who are not wholly prepared for college.

Their disadvantage could be owing to a low income background, disabilities, homelessness, a background of foster care or because no one in the family has ever been to college and can’t prepare the student for the university experience.

Alarcon and Assistant Director of Student Success Programs Venus Tamayo know exactly what that’s like. Both are first generation college students.

“My parents came to this country and worked in the fields,” said Tamayo, who holds a master’s degree in counseling and guidance.

“My dad didn’t learn English until he was older. After all of their hard work, the one thing they told me is ‘You’ve got to get an education. That’s the way you’re going to succeed in this country.'”

Alarcon, who also earned a master’s degree in counseling and guidance, said she wasn’t even sure of the questions she should ask when she came to college, which is the same problem many first generation students have. Alarcon said the program tries to provide the resources students didn’t even know they needed. 
“The students don’t know how the process works,” she said. “We refer them to the tutoring or writing center if that’s what they need. We help them with everything from their financial aid paperwork to time management. We have students who have to work 30 to 40 hours a week while taking a class. We have a lot of single parents or couples with kids.”

To Alarcon and Tamayo, student success means not only graduating and going on to a career or post-graduate work but also getting the full breadth of the university experience.

“We want them to get involved with clubs, do research, present at a conferences, study abroad if they want,” Alarcon said. “We want them to take what they know into the community and share it and then give back.”

The 35 incoming fall semester students attending STAGES on campus Aug. 21–23 will join the SSS undergraduates already attending CI for a total of 160 students benefiting from the University’s SSS program. 

About California State University Channel Islands

CSU Channel Islands is the only four-year, public university in Ventura County and is known for its interdisciplinary, multicultural and international perspectives as well as its emphasis on experiential and service learning. 

CI’s strong academic programs focus on business, sciences, liberal studies, teaching credentials and innovative master’s degrees. 

Students benefit from individual attention, up-to-date technology and classroom instruction augmented by outstanding faculty research.

CI has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-serving institution, and it is committed to serving students of all backgrounds from the region and beyond.

Connect with and learn more about CI by visiting its Social Media.

— Kim Gregory is a communications specialist at CSU Channel Islands.


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