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 Berkeley Pledge Special:

Undergrads Build Bridges from Minority Neighborhoods to Berkeley Classrooms

posted June 16, 1998

A diverse group of Berkeley undergraduates devotes thousands of hours every year to recruiting kids to the Berkeley campus who may be the first in their families to walk through Sather Gate.

The Cal students are part of a novel program called “Bridges Multicultural Center,” – a consortium of student groups organized to recruit underrepresented minorities to the Berkeley campus.

“They are our best ambassadors,” said Roberto Rivera, coordinator of the Berkeley Pledge Recruitment Corps. “Because they are students themselves, they can talk about the reality of being Cal students.”

In February, Chancellor Berdahl funded a three-year, $48,000 grant to support the initiative, telling the students that their “efforts will go a long way to helping the campus increase the yield of admitted Berkeley freshmen and transfer applicants.”

An important part of the Berkeley Pledge Recruitment Corps – designed to fulfill the university’s promise to maintain diversity while preserving excellence – Bridges reaches out to qualified American Indian, African American, and Chicano/Latino students from high schools and community colleges.

The Pledge’s Recruitment Corps also hired two recruiters in Southern California and a coordinator to oversee recruitment efforts.

Kay Fernandez, a social welfare major, says she got involved in recruitment because a student group on campus helped her get accepted to Berkeley. Fernandez joined the Pilipino Academic Student Services (PASS), a member of the Bridges initiative, after the student group helped her with her appeal for admission. “I don’t think that I could have done it on my own,” she says.

Fernandez now serves as Bridges’ program coordinator, helping arrange recruitment and retention activities such as the Diversity Fest, Community College Transfer Night and the Cal Day Multicultural Reception.

While the collaboration is new, students have long been active in recruitment on the Berkeley campus. Groups including the Black Recruitment and Retention Center, the Native American Recruitment and Retention Center, Raza Recruitment and Retention Center and Asian Pacific American Recruitment and Retention Center (REACH!) are part of the Bridges initiative.

Volunteers visit high schools throughout the state, sponsor essay writing workshops, and help students complete university applications.

Bridges volunteers don’t stop there. They call newly admitted students to offer their congratulations and help. Student organizations sponsor a series of receptions, dinners and weekends to welcome the new admits and encourage them to come to Berkeley.

“We try to show them the sights and tell them what Berkeley has to offer, “ says Fernandez. “The campus has its own professional recruiting staff. Our volunteers are also trained. But what we can do is let students know what student life is really like.”

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