Posted on 06 June 2013 by La Habra Journal
By Krysta Fauria
La Habra Journal
After teaching at La Habra High School for more than 20 years, Fred Lentz had become concerned with the lack of preparation that his students were receiving when it came to applying for college and financial aid.
“[They] were not receiving the college counseling they needed and deserved…especially those who would be the first in their families to go to college,” explained Lentz.
Although he was frustrated, Lentz never blamed the schools or districts for this problem. “High school counselors…are swamped with so many demanding requirements,” he said. In 2002, after talking with one of his former LHHS students, Chuck Gatchell, about the lack of counseling and support students had, they decided to create Advance!, a non-profit organization based out of La Habra that provides college counseling to students.
This year, the organization is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Since it was founded, Advance! has helped more than 2,600 students with college and financial aid counseling at no cost.
“[Students] come to learn about how to apply to college, how to prepare for college and how to pay for college,” Lentz said.
According to their website, the mission of the Advance! is to “provide a place in the community where students and their families get one-on-one free college counseling after school hours by a bilingual staff.”
Many of their current staff members and volunteers originally decided to work for the organization because they had received college counseling and preparation from Advance! when they were in school and benefited from it.
“I was referred to Advance! by my high school counselor when I was a senior at Sonora and applying to colleges,” explained Advance! College Counselor, Vanessa Juarez.
“They were there to help me and were very welcoming…and I haven’t really left since,” Juarez said. In 2006, in addition to counseling, Advance! also began awarding scholarships to students in the community. Since then, they have awarded more than $120,000 in scholarships to more than 100 students.
Advance! is funded by donations from individuals and businesses throughout the city of La Habra and they participate in major events in the city every year, such as the Citrus Fair, the Corn Festival and Our Lady of Guadalupe’s La Fiesta to raise awareness of their organization.
La Habra Goes to College, the annual event they host, takes place every October in the La Habra Community Center and attracts more than 4,000 interested students and parents every year. Lentz hopes that Advance! will continue to grow in the future and help as many students with the college admission process as possible.
“We are slowly building a partnership with Cal State Fullerton and will be strengthening our partnerships with local high schools and school districts,” Lentz explained.
They also hope to expand their message and assistance to younger students within the community as well as high school students.
“We will be making presentations at elementary and middle schools with the message that it is important for students and their parents to start thinking about and planning for college at a young age,” Lentz said.
To find out more information about Advance!, visit ontocollege.org or call (562) 691-2117.