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Jefferson High students battle the odds to make it to college


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By Emily Heckelman

At Jefferson High School, students struggle not to become a negative statistic.

According to Brian Boyle, the school’s career counselor, about 95% of the student population is Latino and comes from Spanish speaking homes.“These kids come from families that have no idea how to prepare for or pay for college,” said Boyle.

When asked about college, many Jefferson High School students said it’s their dream to go to UCLA or USC, but state school and community college are more realistic options for them.

“I have no idea what I want to do and how I’m supposed to pay for anything,” said senior Jasmine Alvarado.  “It would be dumb for me to even try to go to a UC school.”

“UC Schools are the fantasy for kids here, but to be honest, with a lot of their test scores and finances, it is not realistic for them,” said Boyle.

Many students have the desire to attend college, but aren’t taking the correct steps such as preparing for and taking the SATs. “I definitely want to go to a 4-year university, but I haven’t taken the SATs,” said Jefferson High School senior Justin Gonzalez. “I’d like to major in business, and get a minor in communication, but I don’t think I will have the grades to go straight to a 4-year university.”

It’s not just about going to college for Jefferson High School students, for some the biggest goal is to graduate high school.

“My parents did not even finish high school. I would be the first one to attend college. Just graduating from Jefferson will make my whole family proud,” said Alvarado.

Jefferson High School security supervisor José Cellas, along with five other security guards, is responsible for guarding the campus and performing random daily checks for drugs and alcohol in student belongings.

“It is not uncommon for students to bring alcohol, weed, and ecstasy to school with them, the kids here are good kids, but it’s easy for them to get distracted with bad things,” said Officer Cellas.

These distractions make it a challenge for students at Jefferson high school to focus on their future. Recent state data shows that about four out of every 100 who begin school in the ninth grade at Jefferson High School qualify for admission to the UC or Cal State system.

 “A lot of them don’t even think about life after high school, and I think that is the big issue,” said Boyle. “College is the perfect vehicle to figure out a career.”

Jefferson facility is not happy with these numbers. On top of that, the school’s test scores are among the lowest in the L.A. Unified School district. Jefferson High School has long struggled with violence, drugs, students not showing up for class, and flunking out. Students experience significant learning challenges with low levels of parent education. The current predominantly Latino families are recent arrivals, and many speak little to no English.

“I know the odds are against me, but college is my dream and I’m working hard to make it come true,” said senior Tanya Ruiz.

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