Advance! opens doors to new assistance offices
By Taylor Engle
La Habra Journal
Advance! hosted an open house at its new location in the Friends of Family Health Center building on July 16.
Previously located on La Habra Boulevard, they have been at the health center since March.
Advance!, an organization devoted to providing students with information and assistance in the college application and financial aid process, was founded in 2002.
The nonprofit group offers an array of services, including but not limited to helping students with their personal statements and essays, helping students apply for financial aid and scholarships, and helping students figure out which schedules and programs will work best for them at the college of their choice.
All of their services are free.
The first year Advance! opened, they helped 51 students. The organization had a desk and four chairs—not even a computer. So far for 2015, the staff has met with 1,093 students and has helped 811 of those with their financial aid and/or college applications.
The staff is made up of volunteers, interns, and part-time employees devoted to helping make college a reality for aspiring students.
“About 90% of the students we see are first-generation college students, and our staff reflects that,” said Co-founder Fred Lentz. “Everyone on our staff is bilingual, first-generation college students who come from a low-income family. They are a prototype of the kind of students we help.”
Much of the staff started out as interns and decided to stay on board.
“I got officially hired in January,” said former intern Veronica Phillips. “I love it here and decided I wanted to stay as long as I can.”
The new office, a 1,400 square foot space, is much roomier than the staff was used to. It contains an office for Lentz, an office for treasurer Habib Captan, a large computer area for the students to work, a kitchen, and a conference room.
The open house was meant as a platform for the staff to demonstrate to the community the services that Advance! offers, introduce the community to the new office space, and provide refreshments.
Slideshows filled with pictures of the staff in action were playing throughout the open house.
There was also a bulletin board with pictures and information on Advances! services and events, along with basic information on CSUs and UCs for inquiring students. Advance! also took the opportunity to inform attendants about La Habra Goes To College, an annual event to inform students and parents about the college process which will be taking place September 27 at the La Habra Community Center.
“This organization is so great because it gives students the realization that there is a believable path they can take to have a future in college,” said board member and La Habra City Councilwoman Rose Espinoza.
Phillips explained that Advance! has also helped students from all over Northern Orange and Los Angeles Counties. She added, that “the numbers just keep climbing.”