Posted on 01 October 2015 by La Habra Journal
More than a hundred local famies filled the LH Community center to hear about the pathway to higher educations.
By Naomi Osuna
La Habra Journal
Each year it gets harder for people to find solid, stable jobs, but one of the best ways to make yourself stand out, and to help get a career is by going to college. In La Habra, Advance!…on to college, is an organization with the sole purpose of guiding high school students through the entire process of applying to college.
The organization looked to reach out to seniors in local high schools and their parents during its annual event, “La Habra Goes to College” at the La Habra Community Center last Sunday. The city of La Habra has been hosting this event with Advance and The Rotary Club of La Habra for the past 11 years. Advance!, was founded in 2002 because they recognized the need for comprehensive college counseling. They help a growing number of students from low-to-moderate income families, as well as first-generation students where there isn’t much experience with college in the family, and where English might not be their first language at home. Services at Advance! are free and open to anyone ready to apply to college. They guide you through the entire application process as well as financial aid and applying for scholarship opportunities. Fred Lentz, one of the co-founders, retired from teaching at La Habra High School in 2003. For a number of years he was growing increasingly concerned about the large number of students who weren’t getting college counseling. It was nobody’s fault, the counselors were too busy, nobody talked about it at home, it hadn’t occurred to the students to apply to college, according to Lentz. He explained that’s why most of the students they help are first generation college goers. He noticed specifically in this town that there were so many young people not attending college. A former student of his who graduated from La Habra, Chuck Gatchell, had the same concerns as Lentz.
He explained that he and Gatchell got together, and talked about these issues. Gatchell was a volunteer for cross-country at La Habra High School and had talked with some of the athletes who said they weren’t going to college. It hadn’t occurred to them to apply because no one at home talked about it. These two gentlemen decided to take action and give students individual help and the right tools they need to apply to college. In the organization’s first year they helped 51 students get into college, and at last count they had helped 3,200 students get into college.
Last year Advance! helped 856 students with their college admissions or their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. “In 13 years we’ve come a long way” Lentz said. “Our focus is La Habra. The vast majority of the students we help are La Habra and Sonora students.” Advance! has also helped students in the cities of Fullerton and Buena Park. They received the prestigious “Estrella Award” from the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2012 among others. He explains that it’s an investment. “You come back to your city with a college degree, you’re more likely to own a house, pay taxes, send your kids to schools in this city, shop in our grocery stores,” Lentz said. “You tell one kid, they tell their parents, and that parent tells their friends, then everyone goes to college.” Many counselors are on hand and eager to help along with former students currently in college sharing their experiences. La Habra Goes to College is an event that continues to help more people each year. One attendee was Jared Norris, who is a senior at Sonora High School. He doesn’t have many concerns about college anymore thanks to Advance!. He explained that he feels much more confident, and knowledgeable about applying to college now. “I’m excited about college, I’m excited for my freedom, and the next stage of my life,” Norris said.
Students are encouraged to bring their parents to this event. Jaki Norris, who is Jared Norris’ mother said after attending this event that she feels much more confident about the process of helping her son apply to college. She explained how they are both learning a lot. She feels he is much more prepared now because of the event. She’s excited for her son to experience college, and for him to be on his own.