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Coastside Futures - A Promise Initiative

An article from the Half Moon Bay Review regarding the launch of a collaborative effort of the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District and the Cabrillo Unified School District to increase college readiness and post-secondary completion rates. 

By Kaitlyn Bartley of the HMB Review 

A new collaborative initiative announced Tuesday by Cabrillo Education Foundation, Cabrillo Unified and La Honda-Pescadero Unified school districts aims to increase the number of Coastside students who complete postsecondary education. The goal is to have 70 percent of local students complete postsecondary education by 2026.

The initiative, called Coastside Futures, partners the San Mateo County Community College District and Coastside public school districts to expand programs that offer college credit classes to high school students and potentially offer students free tuition, books and assistance with transportation and food, among other goals.

The push aims to prepare Coastside public school students for the emerging knowledge-based economy that has outpaced manufacturing and service employment. But such jobs require college or postsecondary degrees.

But at Coastside public schools, many students lack the preparation and support to succeed in the emerging economy. Statewide, only 30 to 45 percent of public school students complete their postsecondary degrees within six years, said Cabrillo Superintendent Jane Yuster. The district doesn’t have precise numbers on how its own graduates compare, but it estimates they align with the statewide average.

And Coastside students face unique challenges: Cabrillo and La Honda-Pescadero are largely rural communities, geographically isolated from the rest of San Mateo County. A significant portion of students come from low-income or immigrant families, in contrast with the more affluent part of the county. 

To close the gap between students’ current outcomes and the demands of the job market, Cabrillo and La Honda-Pescadero partnered with Coastside Education Fund to launch Coastside Futures. It is one of a national network of “promise initiatives” that encourage college attendance and completion with a battery of programs and support services that shepherd students from early childhood to college. Broadly, the programs fall into two categories of equipping students with postsecondary readiness and scholarships.

Statewide, college promise initiatives are burgeoning. At least 23 California community colleges have announced such programs since 2006, according to analysis from the Regional Educational Laboratory West at WestEd. Of those 23, at least 12 were launched in 2016. There are 113 community colleges in the California Community Colleges System.

Support for college promise initiatives isn’t limited to California, though. President Obama proposed a nationwide college promise proposal in 2015 that would have made two years of community college free for responsible students. Congress never allocated funds for the plan, but Heads Up America, an initiative of the nonprofit Civic Nation, is leading a national campaign to build public support for funding two years of community college education.

The partnership between San Mateo County Community College District and the Cabrillo and La Honda-Pescadero school districts is nascent, but its goals include building positive expectations that college is an option, growing early college offerings into a substantial program, offering free tuition, textbooks, tablets with apps, and helping with transportation and food.

While much of the funding has already been pledged by the Westly Foundation, the College Futures Foundation, the Cabrillo Education Fund, and The Big Lift, private fundraising remains to be done, according to Cabrillo Education Foundation Executive Director Keith Cernak.