UC Merced Update

Citi Gift Helps CEP Empower Parents


The University of California chose to locate its newest campus in Merced in hopes of increasing the number of San Joaquin Valley students who earn college degrees. In turn, UC Merced created its Center for Educational Partnerships (CEP) with the goal of effecting long-range improvement in the education of Valley students.

Now, the comprehensive student academic preparation and educational partnership has gotten a boost, thanks to a gift from Citi. The financial corporation has donated $33,000 to support CEP’s Parent Empowerment Program (PEP), which gives parents the tools necessary to support their students’ goals of attending and graduating from four-year universities.

“CEP’s focus has always been to increase the number of Valley high school students who are academically prepared for the rigors of college upon graduation,” said Orquidea Largo, the center’s interim director. “But we can’t achieve that goal without helping students to garner the support of their parents.”

Largo is quick to clarify that the problem isn’t that Valley parents don’t want their students to go to college — it’s simply that they don’t understand the details involved or how best to show their support. That’s where the Parent Empowerment Program comes in.

Established in 2004 through a grant from the California Student Aid Commission and EdFund, the program offers parents an eight-session curriculum focused on university matters and the opportunity to visit college and university campuses throughout the state. Program participants learn about admissions requirements, the availability of financial assistance and what is expected of students upon enrolling in school.

Of the $33,000 received from Citi, $10,000 will fund the continued support of Madera County’s program, while $23,000 will be used to start a new program in Stanislaus County.

Madera’s portion of the gift translates to 51 families who will be assisted by the PEP. However, the impact is even greater. Program parents who have more than one child become better equipped to support all of their children in attending college. The younger children benefit from seeing their older siblings strive for and earn college degrees.

“Thanks to Citi, we can now expand that legacy north,” Largo said, adding that doing so has been a longtime goal of the center. “This gift means that we will be able to empower even more Valley parents in helping their students succeed in college.”