When Dallas signed up for College Prep Academy, she had no idea what she was getting herself into. Turns out, it was better than she could have imagined.
When her summer vacation began, Dallas was looking forward to a break from school. She was ready to enjoy some time off before starting her senior year. But, a week later, when Dallas’ cousin told her about a college prep program, her plans changed.
I didn’t know what to expect, but it was actually very fun and educational. —Dallas
Up to this point, Dallas hadn’t thought too much about the college application process. She knew she wanted to attend college, but as a first-generation student, her parents couldn’t provide her with advice from their own experiences. She figured taking a college prep course would make it easier when the time came for her to apply.
With the fall 2022 college application season quickly approaching, Dallas decided to sign up for Orange County United Way’s Destination Graduation℠ College Prep Academy and was immediately glad that she did. Over the course of three weeks, she and the other 19 rising seniors toured local colleges where they had the chance to interact with college students and staff, and attended workshops to help deepen their understanding of the college application process, what type of colleges would align with their academic and career goals, and how to pay for education costs and what financial aid options are available to them.
College Prep Academy Workshops included:
- How Do I Know If College Is For Me?
- Best College & Career Fit
- Types of Colleges (CC, CSU, UC, Private)
- Making Money Moves
- College Application Overview
- College Essay Writing Prompt Review
Before attending the College Prep Academy, I didn’t know what a PIQ (Personal Insight Question) was. I had no idea that it was part of the college application process, so it was really helpful to learn how to write one and then be able to practice and get feedback. —Dallas
In addition to the valuable knowledge she gained, Dallas loved that she unexpectedly made some great friends during the program as well. “It was a really unique experience,” said Dallas, “and I definitely left knowing a lot more than I did going in.”
Dallas was also excited about the opportunity to enter the drawing to win one of two brand new laptops at the end of the College Prep Academy. Growing up, Dallas’ family couldn’t afford a computer or other electronics. She was able to utilize a Chromebook at school, but was limited in what she could do with it and wasn’t able to use it for any personal reasons.
Dallas was determined to win. Coming from a low-income family, she knew it would be difficult to afford a laptop on her own. And the money she was earning at her part-time job was all going toward her college savings. Not only would a laptop help her with her schoolwork, Dallas was hoping to use it to assist with her creative endeavors. “Over the past few years, I started getting into writing,” said Dallas. “But, I never got the opportunity to type out my ideas—having a laptop would be so helpful for editing my stories as well as creating digital art, which I’m also passionate about.”
At the end of the three weeks, students could enter the giveaway by submitting a video answering the questions: How will winning this laptop benefit you? What is your greatest takeaway from the program?
Dallas recruited her best friend to help her film a video. “I wanted it to be fun so it would show off my creativity and personality,” shared Dallas. Her video was unique and quirky, and definitely captured her sense of humor. Watch Dallas’ video submission below.
In July, families, friends, and community supporters gathered at Steel Craft in Garden Grove for a culmination ceremony to celebrate students’ dedication and accomplishments. Each student received a certificate of completion and a swag bag. And when the giveaway winners were announced, Dallas was ecstatic to hear her name and receive her laptop.
Having a laptop makes it easier to create my art and express myself. It’s also going to help me so much with college applications and essays. —Dallas
As Dallas prepares to begin her college applications, she is happy that she was proactive about learning more and grateful for the knowledge she gained during the College Prep Academy. She also feels a sense of relief knowing she’ll have a laptop to help with the process. “I am so glad I signed up for this program and had this experience,” said Dallas. “I feel way more confident about applying for college now and I know how to find one that is right for me.” Her goal is to study forensic science at either the University of San Jose or California State University, Fullerton.
We wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors, Dallas!
Congrats to all of the students who completed Orange County United Way’s Destination Graduation College Prep Academy! Your dedication to your academic journey is admirable!
And a huge shout out to Google, whose grant made the laptop giveaway possible.
Empowered by Orange County United Way’s United for Student Success℠ initiative, Destination Graduation aims to increase the high school graduation rate by offering exciting college and career exploration opportunities to middle and high school students from high-need districts.
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