Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

‘A gift and a great opportunity’

“If I need help, I know it’s there,” says Rochford scholar Jenna Diaz (right), here with her mother, Denise Diaz. (Photo by Coco McKown ’04, ’10)

When Denise Diaz learned about the Rochford College Access Program (RCAP) at the University of Redlands from her daughter Jenna’s sixth-grade counselor in 2017, she immediately wanted Jenna to apply.

“It was a gift and a great opportunity,” says Denise. “We were so appreciative even to be considered, but I was rooting for whoever was selected.”

Maribel Juan recalls her son, Marcus, bringing home literature about RCAP and feeling excited about the program offered through the University’s School of Education.

“My husband and I saw college as something we hoped for his future,” reflects Maribel. “Having that extra support and guidance would not only help us with Marcus, but with our other three children as well.”

Made possible by a leadership gift from longtime Redlands residents Tim and Carol Rochford, RCAP offers low-income Redlands Unified School District students and families resources and support to pursue a college degree. Now in its fourth year, the program provides activities designed to build college-going skills for potential first-generation students like Jenna and Marcus, increasing their rate of high school completion and preparing them to succeed in their college and career aspirations.

Now in ninth grade at Redlands East Valley High School, Jenna, one of 15 in the first RCAP cohort, has appreciated the mentoring services RCAP provides. “If I need help, I know it’s there,” says Jenna. “My mentors have helped me stay on top of my homework.” She recalls receiving additional assistance from multiple U of R Rochford student mentors with math last year and now is earning straight As, including in her honors math class. 

“I have seen a positive impact on my grades,” says Rochford scholar Marcus Juan, here with his mother, Maribel Juan. (Photo by Coco McKown ’04, ’10)

Marcus, a ninth-grader at Citrus Valley High School who is also part of the first RCAP cohort, has enjoyed the RCAP family academy sessions. “I love getting to know everyone else, and I get to spend more time with my family,” notes Marcus of the sessions. “The mentors are helpful and supportive … They care and help us to the best of their abilities. And I have seen a positive impact on my grades.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, RCAP has transitioned to distance learning, which has been a change for the students. “I’m getting used to it,” says Jenna. “The breakout rooms make it easier for us to have discussions and hear each person’s point of view.” Marcus continues to receive virtual mentoring and admits it has helped him “stay on top of all my stuff.”

The impact that these families have seen from RCAP has been significant. Denise reports that Jenna is more confident and organized, and Maribel reports similar results with Marcus. “I can see where the program is paying off,” she says. “It was a journey to get him here, but the mentoring and support have helped.”

Both families are incredibly grateful to the University and the Rochfords for making RCAP possible. “I am so thankful for the doors they have opened,” says Denise; Jenna shares her mom’s sentiment, “It is nice to know that there is someone to help me figure out my future, especially the confusion of applying for colleges.”

Maribel appreciates not only what the program has done for her own family, but other families as well. “Thank you for providing me and others with the opportunity to provide more for our children. Everything is so appreciated and doesn’t go unnoticed.” Marcus adds, “Thank you for giving me the chance to seek guidance, connections, and the resources I need to stay on the path to go to college.”

Learn more about the Rochford College Access Program and the School of Education.