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Superintendent Austin Beutner joins UC President Janet Napolitano at Susan Miller Dorsey High School to promote college-readiness for all students

SOUTH LOS ANGELES – Superintendent Austin Beutner today joined University of California (UC) President Janet Napolitano, Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III and other special guests for a morning rally at Susan Miller Dorsey High School (Dorsey), where they sent a message to nearly 700 students that a college education is something they could all attain.

“We are working closely with President Napolitano and the University of California to create opportunity for all students,” Superintendent Beutner said. “Our shared focus is on equity and access for students in communities like this one, where we aim to help every student succeed in school and in life.”

The event was part of ‘Achieve UC,’ a multi-year initiative aimed at encouraging students from communities with low college-going rates to aim for a high-quality college education. Dorsey’s student body is approximately 51 percent African American, 46 percent Latino and nearly all students are from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Attending were not only students from Dorsey, but also seven elementary schools and two middle schools from which Dorsey generally draws its population.

“Having all of these students and educators here together underscores two important notions that drive our work in Los Angeles Unified,” Superintendent Beutner said. “One is that conversations about college readiness don’t begin in high school; they begin in our kindergarten classrooms. The other is that schools are the centers of the communities we serve. When our elementary, middle and high schools come together as they have today, pathways to success are strengthened.”

President Napolitano, who served as Governor of Arizona and Secretary of Homeland Security under Former President Obama before becoming the first woman to lead the UC system, has personally visited schools throughout California to promote the ‘Achieve UC’ program.

“Maybe you want to be an app developer, a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher,” she told students. “Maybe you want to invent a job that doesn’t even exist yet. No matter what path you choose, a college education can help you prepare and get there faster. I know some of you might think college isn’t for you. Maybe you haven’t really thought about it. Maybe others have told you that you don’t belong there, or that you’ll never get there. I’m here to tell you that you do belong and you can get there. And the University of California is here to help.”

The rally also included a panel discussion with current UC undergraduates, two of whom graduated from Dorsey and one from nearby Washington Preparatory High, letting students know that any of them could do the same as they have.

Closing out the rally was Dr. McKenna, whose district includes Dorsey, reminding students that with all of the admissions and financial support available, the UC system has put an incredible opportunity on the table and that the rest was up to them.

“For so long, so many of you have come of age believing college was not a place for you,” he said. “We are here today to tell you that not only can you achieve a college education just like anybody else who chooses to do so, we are expecting you to walk proudly through the door that people like President Napolitano have worked very hard to open for you.”

Following the rally was a day of activities, including admissions, financial aid and transfer workshops designed to connect students with resources and convey the message that a UC education is within reach.

Superintendent Beutner, Dr. McKenna and President Napolitano participated in a special panel discussion in a learning space modeled after an actual courtroom, attended by students enrolled in the school’s Law and Public Service Magnet program.

Also attending the day’s events was Dr. Cheryl Hildreth, Superintendent of Local District West, which includes Dorsey.

“We are truly honored to welcome President Napolitano to Dorsey,” she said. “Her inspirational presence here lets our students know that California universities are not only within their reach, they are places where they will be welcomed with open arms.”

Hosting the event was Dorsey principal Sean Gaston, who proudly donned the school’s bright green colors as he welcomed guests.

“Today’s event is a focal point that highlights the work we do all year to prepare our students for college and career success,” he said. “These many months of planning, multiple visits from distinguished guests from UCLA, the UC system – and especially President Napolitano herself – have served to boost our students’ enthusiasm during the application season and beyond. No doubt this will change the college-going trajectory for Dorsey in a major way.”

Across UC campuses is a diverse student body. Forty-one percent of UC undergraduates are first-generation students, and nearly 40 percent come from low-income families. Three-quarters of undergraduates receive some grants or scholarships, and 57 percent receive enough to cover all of their tuition and fees. Under UC’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, tuition and fees are covered for students who are eligible for financial aid and whose families earn $80,000 a year or less.