News

La Habra goes to College helps students, families prepare

Advance! hosts annual event to help students and parents navigate admissions for higher ed.

By Krysta Fauria
La Habra Journal

Hundreds of students and parents attended the Eighth Annual “La Habra Goes to College“ event Sunday to learn about the college application process and the details students should know about it.

The event is hosted by Advance!, a non-profit organization in La Habra designed to assist high school and college students with applying for college and financial aid.

According to Fred Lentz, the Director and Co-Founder of Advance!, this year’s event had the most participants, with between 450 and 500 people in attendance.

“This is the biggest event of the year for the organization,” said Cindy Hernandez, a recent graduate of Cal State Fullerton and regular volunteer for Advance! “I came here when I was a senior in high school applying for college and they helped me so much with my application and financial aid. I have been volunteering for them ever since.”

The event lasted from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a planned schedule of events, including a meet and greet with college representatives, a panel of parents and students to discuss the importance of college, a financial aid question and answer period and a presentation by the keynote speaker, Rueben Martinez.

Some students came with their families to learn about college and the application process, while others came alone.
“My parents didn’t know I was coming today. I will be the first one in my family to go to college,” said Jasmine Gamino, a senior at Sonora High School who is planning on going to college next year.

“Today has been really helpful, especially since they taught me about the Educational Opportunity Program,” Gamino said about EOPS, a program designed to increase college access for low-income and educationally disadvantaged students.
Although the event is designed for students and families who are new to the college application process, some people attended who had already been through it.

Jana Smith, whose son Jared is a senior at La Habra High School, has been through the process of applying to college with three of her four other children.

“I wish I had done this with my three other kids when they were deciding where to go,” Smith said. “This is great for parents who want to push their kids and help them with getting into college.”

In addition to hosting this annual event, Advance! also offers one-on-one assistance with filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), admissions applications, SAT preparation, admission essay critiques and tutoring.

All of the organizations’ services are offered free of charge. According to Lentz, although they will serve anyone in need of assistance, their primary focus for the program is first generation, low-income prospective college students.

“A couple of years ago I had a mom of a student come up to me in tears and tell me that she had been charged $3000 to do what we had just did,” Lentz explained when talking about why this organization is so important. “Last year, we helped with 479 admissions applications and 531 FAFSAs.”

Since the organization began 10 years ago, the number of students they serve in a year has increased from 51 to 1,280. “The primary schools we target are Sonora and La Habra High School but last year we had representatives from about 100 different schools,” said Juan Pablo Gonzalez, Executive Director.

“This event is so great because it brings all of La Habra together, from businesses to individuals.” He explained that, without the help of the local businesses in La Habra, this event would not be possible. For more information on Advance! and the services they offer throughout the year, visit their website at ontocollege.org.

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Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.