Higher education road map
Mundelein High School students Juan Castro and Lupita Esparza talk to students about AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination. | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:13AM
MUNDELEIN — Mundelein High School senior Lupita Esparza is thrilled to have her college applications finished and submitted.
The process is tedious for any student, but an even taller task for Esparza because she is among the first in her family to attempt college. She hopes to study fashion design at the Art Institute of Chicago, Dominican University or Columbia College.
For those who have no prior experience with higher education and all its tedious requirements, Mundelein High School is offering a helping hand.
Janet Pullano, from the school’s College and Career Resource Center, arranged a Dec. 5 screening of “First Generation,” a documentary that reveals many of the roadblocks inexperienced college applicants face.
“We’re seeing, mostly, students who are afraid of the price tag but don’t realize that’s not what they’d actually pay,” Pullano said. “Another problem is people not asking for help when they get confused.”
In the movie, there are 800 high school students per counselor. At MHS, there are 250 students per counselor.
“We have time to help anyone who needs advice,” Pullano said. “Most people go straight to family members or friends who have completed the process. For those who are the first, asking for help might seem embarrassing but that’s why we’re here.”
One student in the movie did not go to college because of the application fee. Pullano said most families don’t realize that schools wave those fees if hardship can be proven.
“The key is to always apply,” Pullano said. “Apply for waivers and apply for scholarships. The acceptance rates are higher than you’d think.”
Esparza and classmate Juan Castro share that common worry.
“I’ve been trying to get a job to help my parents save up for my tuition,” Castro said. “Going to college costs a lot of money, and that’s the one thing I worry about most.”
Castro plans to study accounting and hopes to attend either DePaul University or University of Illinois-Chicago.
Both students are part of a class called AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination. During class, instructor Melissa Schaefer helps students with various tasks relating to college preparation.
“Every Monday, we apply for scholarships in class,” Esparza said. “If we need help, all we have to do is raise our hand.”
For Castro, he rewrote his personal statement in class five times before submitting it with college applications.
The AVID program typically helps underserved minorities, but is open to any students in need.
The class of 2012 included the first group of AVID students MHS assembled. Esparza and Castro will be among the first group to graduate after four years of AVID classes. MHS currently has two freshman AVID classes, two sophomore classes, one junior class and one senior class.
“We want students to succeed and do anything they want,” Pullano said. “If college is what they want, there are plenty of resources in this community to help them. MHS is just one.”