Taking the next step

<p>Hermiston High School senior Mariela Munoz does research for a college application Wednesday afternoon in the high school computer lab. Throughout the week, high school staff encouraged all seniors to apply to college as part of College Application Week.</p>

Seniors at Hermiston High School were encouraged to take charge of their futures this week as the school participated in “College Application Week,”?a state-wide campaign encouraging the upper-classmen to apply to college.

Hermiston High School Counselor Melody Bustillos said the main goal was to have 80 percent of the senior class submit applications to a college, technical school or another institution by the end of the school day Thursday, with an emphasis on seniors who will be the first in their families to graduate from high school.

“It is important for all students to participate ... but it is especially crucial for first-generation, low-income students whose parents may not know how to go through the process,” she said.

The high school and City of Hermiston declared this week “College Application Week” in honor the school’s efforts. The week is part of a state-wide program to encourage students to apply to college.

To help encourage students to apply, teachers in the building decorated their doors to their classrooms with items showcasing their college alma mater. Students and staff then voted on the best door decorations.

“The main goal of it is just to start conversations,” Bustillos said. “This year, the doors seem to be much more personal than last year.”

The computer lab’s hours were also extended throughout the week, and additional ASPIRE volunteers, who visit the school each week to help with secondary education questions and concerns, were on site to help students fill out applications and answer any questions they had about the college application process.

Eastern Oregon University President Bob Davies also visited the high school Wednesday to talk to juniors and seniors about the importance of going to college.

“When you think about college, think about it as an investment in yourself,” he said. “It is something that no one will ever be able to take away from you. Visit campuses, get to the know the staff, professors ... College is not only about money. It is about expanding knowledge.”

A representative from Eastern Oregon University was also on campus to review student transcripts and provide them with letters of acceptance to the university.

As of Wednesday, 44 out of the approximately 300 seniors had stopped into the computer lab to fill out applications.

Senior Mariela Munoz said she applied to Eastern Oregon University, Western Oregon University and Walla Walla University so far this year thanks to the help of advisers and counselors at the high school. She has already received acceptance to EOU and WOU.

“I visited both of them and liked the environment,” she said. “They also have a good nursing program.”

Munoz said she used the high school’s “College Application Week” to do additional research on the colleges to which she was accepted .

Senior Isidro Santana said he used the open computer lab time to apply to EOU. He has already applied to WOU — his top college choice.

“They just have a really great nursing program, and I like how it is not that big,” he said of WOU. “My sister goes there, and I like the weather up there.”

Both students said they liked having the extra opportunity to come and get help with their college applications at the high school.

They said it allowed them to ask any additional questions they had and get instant feedback and help from various high school staff and ASPIRE volunteers.

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