P-20 Council Unites Community to Enhance Education
Stan Mantooth From a three-year-old attending a neighborhood preschool to a college student seeking financial aid, Ventura County students of all ages benefit from an organization you may not have heard of. It's called the Ventura County P-20 Council and its mission is to support efforts that put local students on the path to a college education or a rewarding career.
The name P-20 reflects the Council's commitment to educational opportunity that begins with our youngest learners and continues through college and into the workforce. The P stands for preschool and the 20 represents the "grades" that come after high school, encompassing undergraduate and postgraduate education.
The P-20 Council has been making a big impact in Ventura County education since it was founded ten years ago. It has helped countless students find resources to make their college dreams a reality, it's been a leader in preparing students for careers in the local economy and it has supported efforts to make Ventura County a national leader in STEM education. We invite you to read on to learn about some of the exciting ways the P-20 Council is expanding educational opportunity for Ventura County students.
Ventura County Superintendent of Schools
Ventura County P-20 Council Chair
Engineering Academy Inspires Hueneme Students
According to the National Science Foundation, Hispanic women make up just two percent of the nation's science and engineering workforce. Yasmin Hernandez, a junior at Hueneme High School
, is on track to help that number grow thanks to the school's Academy of Engineering and Design.
Launched in 2007 with a grant from the Ventura County P-20 Council, the Academy channels at-risk students into a program with rigorous standards and high expectations. Yasmin was inspired to join after seeing her older brother thrive in the Academy. She says being one of the few girls was never an obstacle for her. "I think some girls are not aware of their full potential and fear that this is a program for boys, but once they're in it they start to understand everything they can do."
Academy students spend four periods a day together and participate in extracurricular activities such as college tours and educational field trips. In conjunction with CSU Channel Islands and Oxnard College, students attend summer programs to help them prepare for college-level work. In one innovative summer program offered by CSU Channel Islands, students learn principles of physics and engineering by building model bridges out of dry spaghetti.
Director Lindsay Burhkart says the Academy makes college a realistic goal for students who may have never considered higher education. "The program catches kids who may have fallen through the cracks," she says. Many Academy graduates attend community college before transferring to a four-year university.
Yasmin has her heart set on majoring in computer science at UC Santa Barbara and she says the Academy is helping her reach her dream. "You get a great experience, you make great friends and you're surrounded by such good people who want to help you grow in your life."
Unlocking the Door to College Financial Aid
For many students, one of the biggest obstacles to attending college boils down to paperwork. The process of applying for college financial aid can be so daunting that some students never even get started. That's why the Ventura County P-20 Council coordinates workshops to help guide them through financial aid maze.
P-20 Council Project Coordinator and former Oxnard School District Superintendent Richard Duarte leads the effort. He says research shows students who apply for aid have a much greater chance of academic success. "Once the student has either received a grant or is eligible for a loan, they are much more likely to complete their goal, whether it be community college, a career licensing program or transferring to a university," he says.
The starting point for most federal financial aid is an online form known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Duarte recently worked with the Fillmore Unified School District on an outreach project to help more seniors complete their FAFSA applications. The district hosted workshops for students and parents that featured representatives from the California Student Aid Commission and Ventura College. The hope is to replicate the program at other districts throughout Ventura County. The P-20 Council has also sponsored a series of "Train the Trainer" workshops to familiarize school staff members with the FAFSA process.
Duarte says the financial aid rules change every year. For example, one recent change requires students to complete their college education in six years, which can be a challenge for students who need to take remedial courses or who are working while they attend college.
The good news is that most students of all income levels are eligible for some sort of grants, loans or other assistance. The P-20 Council is working hard to make sure more students take advantage of those opportunities and don't leave any college funds on the table.
VC STEM Network is Growing Future Scientists and Engineers
Now more than ever, Ventura County employers need workers with skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or STEM. Helping ensure local students are prepared to meet that need is the goal of the Ventura County STEM Network (VC STEM), which is an initiative of the Ventura County P-20 Council.
The network builds connections between schools and businesses, provides mentoring opportunities and helps educators learn from successful STEM programs throughout Ventura county and across the country. "We want to facilitate resource sharing and collaboration so we can learn from each other and take practices that are working in one school and expand them to other schools," says VC STEM Director Phil Hampton.
Hampton, a professor of chemistry at CSU Channel Islands, helped launch VC STEM
in 2014 with the assistance of grants to CSU Channel Islands from the Amgen Foundation
. To encourage participation from a broad group of education partners, Hampton says, "We made a conscious decision to launch it as an initiative of the P-20 Council so it could truly be a network of equals."
In a few short years, VC STEM has built an enviable reputation as an innovator in advancing STEM education. It was selected by the STEM Funders Network as a STEM Ecosystem
for its success in expanding learning opportunities. It's also one of just eleven STEM collaboratives in the nation to be designated a US2020
City Network partner for its commitment to expanding STEM mentoring, particularly for low-income and minority students.
In addition, VC STEM
created a self-assessment tool called VC STEM 3D (Discover, Dream, and Design) that helps local schools improve the effectiveness of their STEM programs. It also reaches out to families to promote STEM learning by promoting programs such as Bedtime Math
and the Crazy 8's Club
, which offer a variety of fun activities to get kids excited about mathematics.
The Ventura County Office of Education is proud to partner with VC STEM. Dr. Tiffany Morse, VCOE's Executive Director for Career Education, and Science Coordinator Nathan Inouye are members of the VC STEM steering committee.
Promise Initiative in STEM will Pave Pathways to College
Imagine if students in Ventura County had an opportunity to be guaranteed admission to Oxnard College or CSU Channel Islands. Imagine if kids got extra support to help them become college-ready starting as early as third grade. It's a dream that's already taking shape thanks to the Promise Pathway initiative championed by the Ventura County P-20 Council.
Initiative partners CSU Channel Islands, Oxnard College and the Oxnard Union High School District are creating a pilot program that provides admission and educational support to students who are interested in STEM fields of study. Funded by $12 million in grants from the US Department of Education, the initiative will provide workshops, mentoring, guaranteed admission, and - in some instances - financial assistance. It will also help parents understand the college admissions process so they can better support their kids.
There will be pathways available for students who want to attend CSU Channel Islands, Oxnard College or transfer from Oxnard College to CSU Channel Islands and who meet the minimum admission requirements for these campuses. For students who choose to attend Oxnard College, the program will cover their first year of tuition; to be eligible, students must enroll in a full course load and maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
The program is expected to launch in fall of 2017 and will initially be available to students in the Oxnard Union High School District. In the coming years, the P-20 Council hopes to expand the program countywide to give even more students the chance to achieve their college dreams.
Connecting Businesses and Students for Internships and More
Do you run a business that could benefit from student interns? Would your business be interested in helping local students learn about careers in your industry? If so, the P-20 Council wants to hear from you.
One of the Council's top priorities is helping local businesses connect with students from middle school to college. Students win by getting exposed to various career options and businesses win by helping to develop future employees who already have roots in Ventura County.
Businesses can sign up to be notified about a variety of internship and outreach opportunities by filling out a simple form on the P-20 Council website at www.vcp20.org/join-us .
P-20 Core Council Members
The P-20 Council is directed by some of our county's most prominent leaders in the education, business and nonprofit worlds. Learn more about the P-20 Core Council members here.
Stan Mantooth, Chair - Ventura County Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Erika Beck - President, California State University Channel Islands
Henry Dubroff - Editor, Pacific Coast Business Times
Eric Harrison - President & CEO, United Way of Ventura County
Jacqui Irwin - Assemblymember of the California State Assembly, 44th District
Captain Chris D. Janke - Commanding Officer Naval Base Ventura County
Dr. Chris Kimball - President, California Lutheran University
Cheryl Moore - Executive Director, Workforce Development Board of Ventura County
Dr. Bernie Luskin - Chancellor, Ventura County Community College District
Michael Powers - County Executive Officer for Ventura County
Petra Puls - Acting Executive Director, First 5 Ventura County
Mike Soules - President, Corwin Press
Maria Steck - Vice President, 12th District PTA
Bruce Stenslie - President & CEO, Economic Development Cooperative, Ventura County
P-20 Council Staff
Richard Duarte - Project Coordinator, Ventura County P-20 Council
Melissa Remotti - Ventura County P-20 Council Staff & Director, Special Projects and Operations, Office of the President, CSU Channel Islands