May 4, 2012 8:22 PM by Ariel Wesler, KSBY News

Cal Poly President reaches out to students at Santa Maria High

Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong spoke to parents and students at Santa Maria High School, letting them know how they can become future students at Cal Poly.

Santa Maria High School is one of Cal Poly's partner schools. Fewer than 30 percent of the students at Santa Maria High go on to four-year universities. Many of their parents are Latino immigrants and didn't even finish high school, but teachers and staff want the students to look beyond two-year community colleges and aim high.

There were two meetings Thursday night, one for English speakers and the other for Spanish speakers.
This was the first time the Cal Poly president had been on campus. In fact, two years ago, this was a school where almost a quarter of the students dropped out, but that image is changing.

Sophomore Abigail Cruz has dreams her parents could have never imagined.

"I want to be a civil engineer so they have like everything there that I would need," Cruz said.

She would be just the second person in her family to go college and has her eyes set on becoming a Cal Poly Mustang.

"To just know more about the school and how to get into it is really helpful," she said.

Cal Poly wants to expand its partnership with Santa Maria High School, offering more scholarships for low income immigrant students and recruiting locally.

"California's and the U.S. economy will only get better if we have more and more people attending college," Armstrong said.

He not only educated the crowd, but inspired them to dream big.

"Do not think that you can't get in and say 'I'm not going to apply,' " Armstrong said. "The CEO of Raytheon or the Chief Financial Officer of Apple. They're Cal Poly grads and they all started from very meager beginnings."

"If we can get these students to go right to a university, we can break that poverty pipeline," said Santa Maria High School Principal Joe Domingues.

Arnulfo Romero never finished high school himself but has four children, who are all college graduates. He says the key is telling them at an early age not to settle for anything less.

"You have to go to universities. Even when they were in 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, they have to hear that," he said.

For many students, hearing those words of hope and encouragement helps breed success both in the classroom and in their future.

"They actually see the president here. It shows he cares. It shows that cal poly's interested," Domingues said. "It's just a great connection, and it just provides more hope to give their children a better life."

Principal Domingues has really been the driving force behind these meetings. This is just one part of his overall mission to improve test scores, graduation rates, and repair the school's reputation.

Santa Maria High says about 70 percent of this year's graduating class plans to attend Allan Hancock College.


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