Dear Colleagues,

As students are returning to school for a fresh start to the academic year, I’m beyond pleased to announce a new set of programs to help boost high school graduation rates and college success, regardless of income, zip code or background: California Student Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP) and Transition to College.

Most of you are familiar with the alarming rates in which low-income and first-generation students are dropping out of college. Los Angeles is no exception. Approximately 52% of Latinx and 67% of African American LAUSD graduates enroll in higher education, but only 18% of Latinx and 22% of African American graduates earn a college degree, according to a UCLA Luskin Public Policy study.

Cal-SOAP is a college access program that helps traditionally underrepresented students and their families navigate the college pipeline. Through various resources like one-on-one advising, mentoring, college workshops, and workshops that address paying for higher education, Cal-SOAP strives to make college a reality for ALL, especially those from low-income and immigrant communities. Cal-SOAP serves students at 11 high schools (El Monte, Mountain View, Blair, Muir, Belmont, Roybal Learning Center, Crenshaw STEMM, Dorsey, Jordan, Southeast, Huntington Park.) Students from these Cal-SOAP designated high schools are eligible to receive services no matter their GPA, immigration status, or income. The program is led by Yicel Paez, Director of School Partnerships, who worked with this college access program for two years prior to joining FIS. Cal-SOAP is managed through a collaborative of 3 school districts (El Monte Union High School District, Los Angeles Unified School District, Pasadena Unified School District), 2 community colleges (East LA College, Pasadena City College), 1 university (UCLA), and 6 organizations and corporations (Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, The Campaign for College Opportunity, Pasadena Tournament of Roses, Master Your Card, Princeton Review, and The L.A Trust for Children’s Health). Funding for Cal-SOAP is awarded by the California Student Aid Commission, and this is the first time that Families In Schools (FIS) will serve as the lead organization.

Transition to College picks up where Cal-SOAP leaves off. It’s a six session family engagement curriculum that addresses financial and social-emotional aspects of, not only applying to college, but also how to help students remain in college until graduation. The target audience are 12th graders and their families, and first generation college-goers. Rachel Gonzalez, Director of Training and Capacity Building, is traveling across California and the country to train facilitators on how to implement the curriculum as the result of a generous grant from the Kresge Foundation.

FIS is working diligently to provide families with the tools and information necessary to help support their student’s college dream. Access and completion of a college education continues to be the gateway to a better life and the authentic American Dream.

I look forward to keeping you informed of future developments, and invite you to support our work and explore opportunities for collaboration:

To learn more about Cal-SOAP, please contact

To learn about how to bring Transitions to College to your district, please contact

To make a donation to Families In Schools, please visit:



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