Excelencia in Education Awards Premier Honor to CSUSM

Unique Program Helps Students from Farmworking Families Succeed
               
Excelencia in Education, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating Latino student success, recently awarded the prestigious 2010 Examples of Excelencia, Baccalaureate Level honor to CSUSM for its thriving and impactful College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), which helps first generation college students from farmworking families succeed in higher education.

CAMP, which was launched as a national grant program nearly 40 years ago and funded by the Office of Migrant Education, was established at CSUSM in 2002 and is currently only one of eight offered in California. Annually serving 45 freshmen from migrant and seasonal farmworker backgrounds, CAMP provides pre-college transition and first-year support services to help students develop the skills needed to stay in school and successfully graduate from college.

"Without programs like CAMP, students from farmworking families would be less likely to attend college, let alone persist towards a college degree," said Minerva Gonzalez, CAMP director at CSUSM. "The frequent mobility of their families who follow the crops put the students at a disadvantage due to the disruption of their education. Add to that the economic challenges and health issues, it is a considerable accomplishment to graduate from high school and meet the admission requirements of the CSU and UC system."

As one of only three 2010 Examples of Excelencia, this recent award further exemplifies CSUSM's exceptional record and proven commitment to provide educational equity and academic excellence for all students. In early 2010, the university was designated a Hispanic Serving Institution (HIS) by the U.S. Department of Education, making it eligible for additional federal grants, which benefit the entire student body. Today, the Hispanic student population at CSUSM is 27 percent.

Building on that groundwork for success, CSUSM CAMP yields higher rates of student success both campus-wide and statewide.

"Compared to the local and statewide persistence rates that average 70 percent for freshman college students, CAMP students are excelling at a rate of 80 percent," Gonzalez explained. "Student success rates are elevated as a result of the program's seamless transition from high school to university life, sustainable academic progress practices, and service opportunities that integrate students into the campus community."

To Gonzalez, these students epitomize the words of Cesar Chavez, which are displayed on the campus in reverence to the Latino civil rights activist, reading "Si Se Puede," meaning it can be done. Among the hundreds of students served by CAMP is 24-year-old Karina Noemi Gonzalez, a first-generation college student who earned both her bachelor's of science and master's of science in biological sciences from CSUSM.

"My CAMP experience made it easier for me to feel secure and do well in school," Karina said. "It would have been difficult for me to adapt to the university setting without that additional help."

Today, Karina is pursuing her dream and obtaining her Ph.D. in biotechnology at Harvard University. Interested in being a professor of biology, Karina hopes to one day be able to accomplish her ultimate goal of receiving a Nobel Prize for making a scientific discovery to help humankind.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, college-aged Latino adults are less likely to have earned an associate degree or higher than other young adults. Based on recent findings from 2008, only eight percent of Latinos ages 18-24 had earned a degree, compared to 14 percent of all young adults.  For Latino adults 25 years and older, the disparity is even greater with 19 percent earning a degree, compared to 29 percent of blacks, 39 percent of whites, and 59 percent of Asians. Meanwhile, census projections estimate that Latinos will account for nearly one-quarter of the nation's college-age population by 2025.

Responding to this significant educational divide seen nationwide, Excelencia in Education aims to accelerate higher education success for Latino students by linking research, policy, and practice to inform policymakers and institutional leaders, who in turn promote policies and practices that support higher educational achievement for all students. Since 2005, the organization's Examples of Excelencia award has recognized and honored programs and departments that boost Latino enrollment, performance, and graduation. For the 2010 Examples of Excelencia, more than 90 institutional programs or departments were nominated.

For more information about CAMP at CSUSM, contact Minerva Gonzalez at (760) 750-8531 or visit www.csusm.edu/camp/index.html.

"Without programs like CAMP, students from farmworking families would be less likely to attend college, let alone persist towards a college degree," said Minerva Gonzalez, CAMP director at CSUSM.