UC Merced senior Patricia Paredes didn’t grow up in the best neighborhood or have the easiest childhood.
But she overcame those hardships to graduate from a San Jose high school and enroll at the University of California’s newest campus.
Now, Paredes is sharing her story of perseverance with Merced County school children. She’s one of several UC Merced students who are part of Merced County Project 10%, an ambitious program aimed at improving high school graduation rates by 10 percent over the next five years.
The project puts university students in middle school classrooms to stress the importance of graduating from high school. Officials are looking for ways to measure whether the presentations are helping change middle school students’ attitudes toward school.
A dozen UC Merced students now are involved in the project and more are being recruited.
This week, UC Merced welcomes more than 1,400 new first-year, transfer and graduate students to campus. Special programs are happening campuswide to provide information and ensure new students have a smooth transition.
"We've been looking forward to the arrival of our incoming class of Bobcats all summer," said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jane Lawrence. "Groups across campus have worked diligently to coordinate events and activities geared toward providing them with the knowledge and resources they will need to flourish at UC Merced."
A recent $30,000 gift from financial corporation Citi is going a long way to ensure that more parents will feel relieved about navigating through issues related to applying and attending college.
Francisco Abendano Jr., a sophomore at Madera High School, is like many 15-year-olds. He is active in sports, enjoys spending time with his friends and is already taking the necessary steps to get into college.
Neither of his parents graduated from high school, let alone attended college, so Abendano was happy to learn about UC Merced's Center for Educational Partnerships Parent Empowerment Program (PEP) which addresses topics like admission requirements, financial literacy and financial aid concepts, and the difference between educational systems here and in their native countries. PEP is one part of the university's ongoing commitment to increasing the college-going culture in the Central Valley region.
After attending the 8-week program, Abendano's father said he is feeling more at ease about his son applying for college in a couple of years.
Now the rest of the country knows what students, staff and
faculty at UC Merced have known for years – this is a cool school.
The Sierra Club just released its list of the top 100 “Cool
Schools” – the greenest campuses in America, and UC Merced ranks 25th.
"UC Merced's goal is to be green from the ground up
and we've made giant strides since the campus opened seven years ago,"
said Jim Genes, special assistant to the vice chancellor for administration. "The Cool Schools
ranking helps us measure our success and set our sights on improving our ranking
UC Merced made a “Triple Zero Commitment” to consume zero
net energy through efficiency and renewable energy production; to produce zero
landfill waste by reducing excess consumption and composting or recycling as
much as possible; and to produce zero net greenhouse gas emissions by
offsetting as much carbon emissions as it produces – all by the year 2020.
campus is committed to sustainability through its much-lauded long-range
development plan, including constructing LEED certified buildings, conserving
water, promoting recycling and reuse, and through many other programs.
With a possible 894 points in categories like
education/research, planning, transportation, waste, innovation and water, UC
Merced scored 560.52 points. No school received a perfect score. The
first-place winner, UC Davis, received 709.17 points. UC Irvine is ranked No.
9, UC San Diego stands at No. 17 and UC Berkeley is ranked 20th.
UC Merced sophomore Demonte Hughes is gearing up for the fall semester. At the top of his list is securing the textbooks required for his courses, which he says is a good portion of his budget — between $300 and $400 a semester.
"Students are all low on money in general, so it is hard to buy every book," Hughes said.
Kevin Storms, director of the campus's bookstore, said students like Hughes will be able to see some upfront savings this year. This is the first semester the Campus Store has launched book rentals offering savings up to 70 percent off purchasing new.
"Ultimately, we want to get the material into the students' hands so they can be successful," said Storms, who has been working on the rental program for three years. "Surveys have shown that some students elect to go without required books."
Renting textbooks isn't new to Hughes, a chemical sciences major. Through the Fiat Lux program on campus, he has been able to rent many of his books for classes. He is happy that other students will be able to do the same.
A UC Merced student is being honored for his work in water conservation by a Berkeley nonprofit, the Earth Island Institute.
Martin Figueroa, who coordinated last year’s UC Merced Water Battle competition, to see which residence hall could save the most water, will receive the Brower Youth Award, named for the institute’s late founder, David Brower.
Figueroa was chosen for the award because of his leadership in the campus movement toward water conservation, energy efficiency and sustainability.
That he has been honored comes as no surprise to one of his professors, Teamrat Ghezzehei.
“He is a really good student,” Ghezzehei said. “And it’s really nice for our campus to be recognized by a Bay Area group.”
The Brower Youth Award is highly competitive, the institute said, and Figueroa was chosen by a panel of judges that includes Energy Action Coalition founder Billy Parish, author Frances Moore Lappé and Riki Ott, director of Ultimate Civics.
The one-month Water Battle took place in Fall 2011. Figueroa led more than 600 of his fellow students to participate, and together they saved more than 14 percent of normal water usage, or 89,000 gallons of water.
The competition was the first of its kind to use new water-monitoring technology to track progress and identify leaks in the campus water lines.
The month-long competition also included a variety of events to educate students about energy auditing, sustainability, water conservation and energy efficiency.
Using social media allowed Figueroa to keep the students updated on their progress so they could see the results of the changes in their behavior almost immediately. A cost/benefit analysis suggests a potential water cost savings of $11,000 over a nine-month academic year.
Figueroa is now a third-year student studying biology and sustainability. He wants to make the Water Battle an annual event and is reaching out to other UC campuses to spread the model throughout California.
“I hope to continue working toward educating the community and students about the importance of living sustainability by creating fun and easy ways of doing so,” he said.
Figueroa will receive his award during a ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23 in the Herbst Theater, Room 110, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. Five other award winners between the ages of 16 and 22 will also be honored, including environmental educators, filmmakers and others.
The Earth Island Institute is an umbrella organization that supports other nonprofits and individuals, supporting start-up environmental projects, groups and individuals with new ideas for promoting ecological sustainability; publishing environmental journals; and assisting with environmental campaigns.
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