Nearly 600 San Fernando Valley sixth grade students from PUC charter school got an in-depth look at university life at Cal State University Northridge (CSUN) spending a week on campus, prior to starting school back on their own campus. They attended class in college lecture halls, spoke to PUC alumni who are currently in college, beat the heat in the CSUN swimming pools and saw that college is truly within their reach.
This year marked the 20th anniversary of CSUN Week for PUC students. A tradition that began by accident two decades ago, when educator Jacqueline Elliot opened the first charter school in the San Fernando Valley—Community Charter Middle School, but when the school’s permanent campus wasn’t ready in time for the start of the school year, they used CSUN as a temporary facility for six weeks.
The school administration found that all kids had to do was be a part of a college campus long enough to see that they belonged just as much as any other student. The experience made so much of an impression, that the annual program began for all future incoming sixth graders. PUC alumni now point to the one week at CSUN as the moment where the seed to attend college was firmly planted.
PUC Schools is a network of 16 public charter schools that provide a college preparatory educational program in two densely populated urban communities with low-achieving schools—northeast Los Angeles and northeast San Fernando Valley. PUC serves 95 percent Latino and 86 percent Title I students, and 93 percent of its seniors have been accepted to college.