Colin Giloon sits at his desk each day with his mind set that after he graduates from high school that he’d like to attend the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and study Television and Film Production.
By the sound of it, Giloon sounds like your average high school senior, but he is actually an eighth grade student at Vela Middle School. He attributes his early decision to Vela University, which is the campus-wide mentality that gets students thinking about and prepared for college.
“It’s helped me a lot,” said Giloon. “I’ve been able to decide where I want to go even before I’ve started my freshman year. It puts me in a better spot, because I know what I need to do in high school to go the college I want to. Most of that I have to credit to Vela University for teaching me.”
Started this year; the concept of Vela University extends from its students to the administration, said Ezelina Marroquin, eighth grade ELA teacher. Halls are covered with college flags and it’s a subject that’s talked about almost every day through daily announcements or classroom discussions. The goal of the campus structure is to make college a top priority for every student.
“Vela University is a culture that we’ve created,” said Marroquin. “We are talking about going to college and the requirements they will need. It builds a culture of college readiness and having the students understand they can and will go to college.”
With the college culture, comes the focus on academics. Vela teachers and staff frequently share with their students that it’s important to do well in school to get accepted to the college of your choice and will translate to doing well while at college. Wendy Baggs, Vela Library Media Specialist, calls it an “above and beyond” attitude where students are aware that they need to continually push to stay on the path to success.
“We want our students to be independent learners,” said Baggs. “They are learning the tools they need to prepare themselves for high school and college achievement. It’s about them understanding that there is going to come a time where they have to be their own motivators to do well and it’s up to them to succeed.”
Academics are only one piece of the puzzle. Another important part of Vela University is providing students with the options to develop as well rounded individuals and educating them on the programs they can participate to do it.
“Colleges want well rounded students,” said Joshua Delgado, eighth grade student. “They look at not only how well you did in school but what you did too. It’s great that we have so many opportunities at school to participate in extracurricular activities and become well rounded.”
With the first year of Vela University nearing completion, students, teachers and staff are optimistic that the campus-wide initiative will continue to benefit students for years to come.