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Ed. Fund checks in with scholarship winners returning from college

on December 19, 2012

Blue, gold and a medley of other school colors wove through the wardrobe of dozens of recent Richmond-area high school graduates Tuesday, as they came together to talk about their first year of college.

The nonprofit Ed. Fund has given away more college scholarships this year than it ever has before. Sixty-eight students from West Contra Costa Unified schools received about $200,000. The group asked students who had received awards to share their experiences at a luncheon Tuesday afternoon.

“Difficult.” “Procrastination.” “Bikes.” These were some of the words students chose to describe their first semester or quarter of school.

“It’s been a struggle,” said Dilan Pedraze, who’s majoring in political science at California State University, Chico.

Finding funds for college has been difficult for him since he’s an undocumented immigrant. Pedraze said he came out publicly this year as undocumented in the campus newspaper.

He said there wasn’t a club for undocumented students at Chico. He started an AB 540 club, which he said provides support for those students. “Sometimes they feel alone,” Pedraze said.

“They can’t talk to a professor. They can’t talk to a friend,” Pedraze said. “They don’t know how they’ll react.”

But that’s not to say it hasn’t been worthwhile. Pedraze said going to college was a “life-changing experience.” He hopes to go onto law school after receiving a degree in political science and a minor in business.

“I can’t imagine giving up college for anything,” Pedraze said.

Katie Tremper, program officer of the College Access Foundation of California, said that the scholarships they offer are intended for students who are low-income, and the first in their family to attend college.

“We’re particularly interested in kids who aren’t valedictorians,” Tremper said.

This is the first class her program is supporting with these scholarships. She said after talking with the students, she’s noticed that, “while the students are impressive, it doesn’t mean they won’t struggle.”

Going to college can make them feel like “a fish out of water,” Tremper said.

What Ed. Fund Program Assistant Nikki Arenal said she’s seen in this class is their openness in sharing their challenges. Students are required to write four blog posts throughout the year as part of their agreement to receive the scholarship.

“They share what they’re going through so that the other folks can learn from their mistakes,” Arenal said.

The event included workshops for the students on time management, healthy eating when away from home, and ice breakers intended to help them meet others in their cohort.

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