August 19, 2019

By Brian Sauer, Citywide Director of Education

In part one of this story, I talked about Yaret, a Mission Clubhouse youth whose immigrant status created unique hurdles for her early in life. Yaret relied on relationships she developed at the Club to make college a reality. She also faced significant financial concerns stemming from the high cost of living in San Francisco and the high cost of attending college. Part II of this story focuses on how the Club helps youth navigate past the financial challenges that college presents.

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Over the past two decades the cost of college has increased drastically, and the financial barrier this creates for prospective college students of all socio-economic levels cannot be overstated. It’s critically important that Club members and their families understand all the expenses associated with college and the financial ramifications of the decisions they make. Fortunately, there are many good local or in-state college options that are affordable for our Club members.  

For some teens, immediately attending a four-year college is beyond their family’s means. We often find that a local community college is the best option for keeping costs down—notably when considering an option like City College of San Francisco, which is tuition-free for San Francisco residents. There are also other Bay Area schools located close to public transportation that are less expensive, especially if students can live at home.

For other teens, the issue of attending a four-year college comes down to finding the right financial support. Some of our members find themselves accepted to top-tier universities but need help putting together a smart financial plan that includes scholarships and work study programs. Such was the case for Wendy Kha, an eight-year member from the Tenderloin Clubhouse, who is now attending UCLA. Like her two older siblings, Wendy had dreams of attending college but saw the financial challenges that an expensive university presents. Both of Wendy’s siblings struggled to make ends meet during college and this was a hardship Wendy hoped to avoid. 

Tenderloin Clubhouse Alumna Wendy, who says BGCSF helped put her dream college within reach.

Fortunately, the Club offered options to help Wendy navigate past this challenge. Wendy gained leadership experience through BGCSF’s Torch Club, Keystone Club, and Youth of the Year program. These experiences set her apart from her peers. Through the mentorship of Jonell Molina, High School Services Director at BGCSF’s Tenderloin Clubhouse, Wendy had help finding scholarships (both internal to BGCSF and external), filling out applications, and turning her life experience into an asset that improved her odds of getting into a top-tier school like UCLA. Finally, choosing UCLA—a public school—was a smart choice that met Wendy’s academic and financial goals.

“Club staff helped me find resources that I didn’t even know about. Scholarships I got from BGCSF helped me create a financial plan that meant attending UCLA wouldn’t send me into debt,” Wendy said. Wendy has completed two years at UCLA and is majoring in Financial Actuarial Mathematics.

Wendy with BGCSF President, Rob Connolly, at BGCSF graduation in 2017.

Every kid arrives at BGCSF with their own needs and their hope for the future. For most—but not all—kids, the best path forward in life continues to be higher education. Through our comprehensive approach BGCSF has created a blueprint for how young people can make a college degree attainable. We know that success starts with each student's determination to succeed, but this is closely followed by support from the young person’s family, adequate resources, and reliable, consistent mentorship from our skilled and caring staff. With this system in place, the student can navigate the many challenges and pitfalls that come with college access and the drive that’s needed when college gets toughest. At Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Club members, doing everything we can to help them attain a college degree and realize their full potential as adults.

For more information about BGCSF’s academic support programs, visit kidsclub.org/education.

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