October 27, 2015
San Jacinto Unified School District (SJUSD) and Mt. San Jacinto College (MSJC) hosted their eighth annual “Into the Future” parent and student conference on Saturday, October 24, 2015, on the MSJC San Jacinto campus for over 400 attendees. The conference, designed to foster a college-bound culture in the San Jacinto Valley through advocacy, access and community relationships, featured two speakers and multiple workshops.
“This free conference offered a wide range of information for all K-12 students and parents looking for higher education opportunities,” said event coordinator Charles Fitzgerald, English Language Teacher on Special Assignment at SJUSD. Fitzgerald has been the organizer of all eight yearly conferences held, and in the past six years has included transportation for families from school sites to the MSJC campus.
During the conference registration/check-in period, several community services organizations were stationed at information tables, including Borrego Community Health Foundation’s San Jacinto Health Center and the San Jacinto High School Workability Job Developer, Robynn Gualtiere. Local artist Barbara Rivera, also an SJUSD employee, opened her “The Art and Soul of Dia de los Muertos” display at the MSJC Art Gallery for conference participants, with a special inclusion of Megan Cope Elementary student art work of the same theme by those enrolled in its Dual Language Immersion Program.
Terry Russell, Director of Student Success and Support at MSJC, provided a welcome address to all conference attendees and noted that nearly 80% of the San Jacinto Campus’ students don’t pay to attend, but earn or receive financial aid. Russell noted that it is a natural to partner with SJUSD for the conference, because awareness of what is available in a student’s community is often the easiest step to take for post-secondary education.
Dr. Erika Beckles, the Managing Counselor Therapist at SJUSD, was this year’s keynote speaker and shared her journey, providing advice on continuous improving academics for both students and parents. At one point, she asked all students in the MSJC Theater to stand and said, “Take a look at all the people in this room that care about you, and desire your success.” Dr. Beckles went further into motivating both students and parents to broaden their dreams and to keep their journey going well beyond high school graduation.
Conference participants were offered two sessions from a choice of 12 different workshops led by both MSJC and SJUSD staff, including Technology, Financial Aid, Homework Resources, Community Resources, Bully Prevention and Resume Writing, to name a few. A free light breakfast and lunch was served to all participants, and childcare was provided on the MSJC campus by SJUSD’s After School Education and Safety (ASES) program.
“We provided free transportation, meals, and childcare for this event, because promoting endless possibilities for our students and parents is such an important message,” said SJUSD Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Sherry Smith. “We had a parent share that had it not been for this conference, they would never had been to the MSJC campus even though they live less than two blocks away,” noted Smith, “so you see, this is truly an important community event.”