By Jamile Balli, Admissions Counselor
Have you ever heard the saying that some can’t see the forest for the trees? Colleges and universities can be guilty of that sometimes too. Before coming to Chico State I worked at UC Merced. While there I had the unique experience of seeing the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, deliver the commencement address in 2009. For me, one of the most significant parts of the First Lady’s talk centered around her experiences growing up just miles away from the University of Chicago (U of C). Mrs. Obama shared that while the University of Chicago was “a major cultural, economic institution” in her neighborhood, “it never played a meaningful role” in her “academic development.” She also said that the U of C, made no effort to “reach out” to her, though she was “a bright and promising student in their midst.” For this reason, when it came time to attend college she “never for one second considered the university in my own backyard as a viable option.”
What does all this have to do with Chico State? One of the things I value most about our campus is its long term commitment to engaging with its local community. Programs like Educational Talent Search and Upward Bound have spent decades cultivating and nurturing the academic talent of the students within our service area. Chico State also believes that academic success is a family affair and so has funded programs like the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) since 2006. PIQE’s mission is to “connect families, schools and community as partners to advance the education of every child through parent engagement.” To accomplish this goal, PIQE conducts a series of workshops in local area K-12 schools. These workshops center on higher education information and try to bridge the gap that sometimes exists between parental aspiration and the university admissions process. Although it may be an overused term, this partnership is about empowering students and their families to succeed in higher education.
In another effort to engage with our local community, the Office of Admissions, along with the Offices of Financial Aid and Educational Talent Search, hosted 72 primarily Spanish speaking families on our campus for a one day parent conference on January 28, 2012. The invitees were graduates of the Gridley, Red Bluff and Live Oak PIQE programs. The purpose of the event was to reaffirm the value of higher education and instill a sense of Chico State as a campus that is welcoming, accessible and place of innumerable opportunities for future students. Responses to the conference were overwhelmingly positive. My two favorite quotes from the day came from a high school student who said, “I’ve been here two hours and I love it already. I want to come here!” One of the fathers who visited called our campus, “a temple; a temple of learning.” I thought that an amazing compliment. It may be difficult to know if a future First Lady of the United States will come from the North Valley, but I am satisfied in knowing that Chico State does look to our own backyard for those with unlimited potential, like Mrs. Obama.