It was not a question of if, it was a question of which one as thousands of youth from Southwest Riverside cities converged on the Promenade Temecula mall Saturday, weighing their college options.
Organizers expected 4,000 students to attend the second annual Temecula Valley College and Vocational Invitational, which brought in 125 schools from throughout the nation, up from 100 last year. The annual event is put on collectively by the city’s Youth Services Department, Promenade Temecula and the Temecula Valley Unified School District.
Starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m., the second floor of the mall was teeming with college representatives ready to answer questions.
The intention was to provide an avenue for area youth to continue their education, according to Herman Parker, director of community services for the City of Temecula.
“We need to reach out to our community and our kids. This is planting seeds, that is what it is all about,” Parker said.
It was enough to attract the attention of 16-year-old Raven Broom, a junior at Hemet High School. She’d heard about the fair through her school counselor. As an AVID student, she’s been preparing for college for three years.
Her plan includes majoring in education, specifically special education. She’s looking into two colleges, University of La Verne and University of Redlands, and Saturday was about seeing which other colleges might fit her needs.
“We are here to see what is the best fit for our family,” said Raven’s mother, Denise Broom. “We’re asking about class size, if they have her major, scholarship and financial aid opportunities and campus safety. We’ve been planning a long time for this.”
Temecula Valley Council PTA President Jeannie Hardy, one of several volunteers handing out shopping bags donated by Azusa Pacific University, was encouraged at the level of parent participation.
“It’s incredible for the city to bring it here all under one roof, to a location families are familiar with, where they can talk with colleges from across the nation. The neat thing is to see the parents with them,” Hardy said, whose own daughter will be going away to college next year.
“The city has done a wonderful job organizing it,” she said.
The variety of schools included vocational prospects, such as Job Corps. According to Job Corps counselor Donnie Ashford, the program is a division of the U.S. Department of Labor. It offers free vocational training, with housing during the training period. Facilities are located throughout the country. Students are given $1,200 when they leave the program, to assist them in the transition to working adults.
“With vocational schools costing so much, we’ve got (plenty) of applications from students trying to get into Job Corps,” Ashford said.
Representatives from local schools such as Mt. San Jacinto College, UC Riverside and Cal State San Marcos were on hand, as were recruiters from Ivy League schools Princeton, Harvard and Cornell.
Temecula resident Winnie Pugeda was collecting brochures for her 15-year-old son, who wants to go to the U.S. Air Force Academy. He was busy helping hand out bags to fair-goers as part of his Marine Corps community service hours.
“This is a pretty good turnout. This is good interaction for the community, to be able to meet one-on-one with colleges instead of going online and reading about them,” Pugeda said.
Her 11-year-old daughter, Kassey, a Temecula Valley Charter School student, stopped by the Princeton table. She has aspirations of becoming a pediatrician, and already has her eyes on the Ivy League school.
Princeton alumna Carol Hasson works as one of two San Diego-area Princeton representatives, and was busy addressing concerns families had about the college’s interview process.
“This is a wonderful thing the City of Temecula has done. A lot of people here have not been able to have this kind of access to colleges. They’d have to go to Ontario for something like this,” Hasson said.
Her 16-year-old son will go off to college soon.
“I know I’m going to be a wreck. I see these mothers and fathers and they are all nervous, they are asking about the money and the grades. But I see these great kids and I tell them they can only be the ultimate you.”
She urged prospective students not to turn down college interviews.
“Just go in there and be yourself.”
Nikka Veriato, a 16-year-old junior at Temecula Preparatory School, said she would heed the advice. Princeton may be one of the schools she applies to as she seeks a career in the medical or chemical engineering fields.
“Next year is going to come really fast,” Nikka said.
If students missed this opportunity, the Murrieta Valley Unified School District is hosting a college fair from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday in the Vista Murrieta High School gym. There will be information on ACT and SAT preparation, military recruiters, and representatives from state and national universities.
Maggie Avants is the education editor for SWRNN. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow SWRNNedu on Twitter!