The College of Health and Human Services at Fresno State and West Fresno Family Resource Center have teamed up to get youth excited for college.

They will be hosting the first “iFuture: You Belong at Fresno State” event, 8:30 a.m. – noon, April 30 at the West Fresno Family Resource Center (1802 E. California Ave.).

The event, hosted in collaboration with the colleges’ Advising and Career Development Center and the Department of Criminology in the College of Social Sciences, is aimed at fifth and sixth graders from five elementary schools in Fresno Unified School District, including Colombia, King, Kirk, Lincoln and Sunset.

The goal is to provide early outreach to young students of color and their families to improve access to higher education and support academic success. Students will be exposed to information about career options in the health and human services field, as well as criminology.

Fresno State students will provide participants with demonstrations and activities related to the various career choices on display. Career counselors will provide parents with strategies to navigate steps toward higher education for their child.

“We want to let young people and their families, as well as the community, know that they belong at Fresno State,” said Dr. Jane Middleton, professor emeritus in the Department of Social Work Education. “To that end, our focus has been on attracting young people of color whose group retention rates are significantly low. Creating opportunities for them to explore their interests and building bridges of hope may result in young people thinking more broadly about their choices.”

This pilot event is the result of the College of Health and Human Services’ Retention Advisory Committee, which began last year through a University initiative to engage students in dialogue about belonging and academic success. The event was inspired by research indicating that early outreach activities designed to increase college awareness in students at the elementary level help improve educational attainment.

Yolanda Randles, executive director of the West Fresno Family Resource Center, said the relationship young people in the community have with colleges and universities are important to their long term success.

“When universities immerse themselves in the students’ community, meeting students where they are and developing connections with them, it’s a win for the students and a win for the university,” Randles said. “It says and means a lot to students that a university would take the time out to visit them in their neighborhood. It’s encouraging and inspirational, but more importantly, it puts college at the fingertips of students.”

For more information, contact the West Fresno Family Resource Center at 559.621.2967.

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