Campus Hosts CSU “Journey to Success” College Fair For Asian, Pacific Islander Community

Approximately 500 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) parents and their sixth through 12th grade-age children from Los Angeles and Orange County participated in the “Journey to Success” college fair held at the California State University, Dominguez Hills campus on June 1.

JTSJourney to Success is a component of the CSU’s AAPI Initiative, one of the first in the country with the goal of improving college access and graduation achievements among underserved students within the AAPI community. The initiative—targeting California’s Samoan, Tongan, Marshallese, Hawaiian, Cambodian, Hmong, Laotian, Fijian and underserved Chinese, Vietnamese and Filipino communities—is among a number of successful similar initiatives established by the CSU for other underserved communities.

Following a ceremonial Kumu Hula performed during the plenary welcome, Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (66th District) opened his keynote speech in the Toro Dome with a hearty call and response of “Aloooha!”

“I want to congratulate each and every one of you for taking what, for many of you, may be the first step on your journey to success,” the Okinawa native said. “College is going to open opportunities for you and change your life.”

“It’s never too early to talk about going to college. … Whether you are in elementary school, middle school, high school.” 
—Garrett Ashley, vice chancellor of University Relations and Advancement, CSU

“If you’re a parent… this is what today is all about, learning how to help your children get to college. If I can give you a bit of advice about today, ask questions, gather all the materials you can, ask a representative what their name is, get their phone number and plan on calling them.” 
—Mitch Maki, vice provost, CSU Dominguez Hills

“Take [a “How to Get to College” poster] home, hang it over your desk, follow these simple steps, work hard, believe in yourself, and before you know it, you will be taking it down. Not because you failed, but because you’ll be replacing it with something that can and will change your life: Your newly earned college degree.”  
—Ramon Torrecilha, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, CSU Dominguez Hills

Designed to empower families with knowledge about how to make college a reality, interactive workshops and information sessions held throughout much of the campus covered a variety of topics, from financial aid to admissions to college life.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (66th District)  and Ramon Torrecilha, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, CSU Dominguez Hills sit with prospective college students.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (66th District) and Ramon Torrecilha, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at CSU Dominguez Hills, sit with prospective college students.

“Maybe it’s a good start; we can get to know the school,” Froyla Catbagan said of attending the event with her husband Sam and their daughter Samantha, a senior at Northview High School in Covina who has been accepted to CSU Dominguez Hills and will enter as a microbiology major in fall 2013. “This is important for our peace of mind to really know the school and for gaining more confidence for her to be here.”

The incoming freshman said the college fair was beneficial because she learned about navigating general education counseling as well as the value of seeking guidance in her major.

Students like her may be well-poised to attend college, but for many first-generation AAPI middle- and high-school students, college seems like a “far-fetched idea,” according to Tevita Veikoso, a senior political science major at CSU Dominguez Hills who served on the AAPI Initiative steering committee for the event. Veikoso recalled as a high school student he attended a community event and received advice about getting to college. “I hope that I can provide the same opportunity to other students who come through the program.”

During a peer-to-peer panel, college students shared details of their university experiences and offered advice to the future college students who asked questions during the session.

“Just apply. It takes a lot to even consider going to college, but you will never get there if you don’t apply,” Ty Tupua, a senior political science major at CSU Long Beach, urged a small but attentive group of prospective students.

What other student panelists advised:

“Get involved on campus—it makes the campus seem smaller. Meet like-minded students.”  
—Seyha Klam (Class of ’13, B.A., communications, CSU Long Beach)

“Don’t be afraid of the administrators on campus. The only reason they work there is they want to help with your success.”
—Matthew Lin (junior economics major, CSU Los Angeles)

“I work part time. I go to school on Tuesdays and Thursday and I work Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays. … I plan my schedule like that because I want to be able to focus on certain things.”   
—Selina Bustillos (junior, CSU Fullerton)

“Learn things about college; study habits, time management. I keep my agenda super handy.”   
—Ngoc Minh Nguyen (senior health science major, CSU Fullerton)

Justin Su`a, former All-American Brigham Young University baseball pitcher and mental conditioning coach from the IMG Sports Academy, captivated a filled-to-capacity classroom of children, teens, and parents, with an interactive presentation “Developing a High Performance Mindset,” in which he asserted, “High-level performers know they don’t need permission to be great.” He encouraged the middle- and high-school AAPI students to think the same way as they pursue a college education.   

Event chair Mitch Maki, vice provost at CSU Dominguez Hills, and staff from the Chancellor’s Office and CSU campuses at Dominguez Hills, Fullerton, Los Angeles and Long Beach worked with community leaders and volunteers to provide an informative but fun event, which included lunch and an outdoor concert as well as offering valuable information.

Taking advantage of those opportunities, Mercedes Ortegon learned about CSU campuses and enjoyed the festivities with her daughter Alexis, a sixth-grader who wants to attend CSU Fullerton to study chemistry and science as well as play on the women’s softball team.

Mercedes Ortegon is flanked by her daughter Alexis (left) and family friend Joanna Casteños.

Mercedes Ortegon has fun at the photo booth with her daughter Alexis (left) and family friend Joanna Casteños (right).

“She went on a Fullerton field trip. That’s where she got excited about Fullerton. I wanted her to know more about other colleges. I don’t want it to be that, just because she went there first, it makes [Fullerton] her only option. I want to open it up for her,” Ortegon said, conceding that, “As long as she goes to college, I don’t care which one it is.”

Nancy Wada-McKee, assistant vice president of student affairs at CSU Los Angeles and a founding CSU AAPI Initiative steering committee member, said working with community partners is one of the most successful aspects of the AAPI Initiative for “understanding what the individual needs of the different AAPI communities are and tailoring events to meet those needs in terms of outreach, marketing, and information.”

To that end, participants received “How to Get to College” information posters printed in English and several other languages, including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Hmong, Tongan, Samoan and Cambodian.

“A residual benefit is the student leaders that we had volunteering at [AAPI Initiative] events. Our current college students are learning what it means to give back to their communities and working on a larger initiative that benefits younger students,” said Wada-McKee. “The next step is figuring out how many [AAPI] students we’re impacting and tracking how many of them get to college.”

Event chair Mitch Maki, vice provost at CSU Dominguez Hills, inspired families during the college fair welcome.

Event chair Mitch Maki, vice provost at CSU Dominguez Hills, inspires families during the college fair welcome.

Student volunteers and representatives from the 23 CSU campuses hosted information booths where families could ask questions and collect printed materials highlighting academic programs and campus facts.

Lamar Andrews, a resident admissions counselor, regional recruiter, and alumnus of CSU Chico—the second oldest university in the CSU system—said that with only 17 percent of the Chico’s students coming from the Southern California area, he hoped to familiarize prospective college-bound AAPI students with his alma mater.

“I try to give students a wide variety of information. Sometimes when you talk to someone from this population, they might be the first person [in their family] going to college, so I try to speak on that, too. These are the resources you need to contact when you get to the university who can help you be successful,” said the former Inglewood resident and Educational Opportunity Program student, and first-generation college graduate, adding, “It’s one thing to go to college, but it’s another thing to actually graduate.”

What other volunteers had to say about their involvement at the Journey to Success college fair:

“It’s a learning process for the high school students, as well as for us.” 
—Lucille Gutierrez (senior criminal justice major, CSU Dominguez Hills)

“Reaching out to the Asian Pacific Islander community, trying to promote higher education, we would love for them to be at Fresno State. We have a very good population of Asians there at 14.1 percent.”  
—Mailee Lee (outreach counselor, CSU Fresno)

“I’m really excited to see CSUs together. It’s rare to see all the Cal States at a college fair, because it does take a lot of resources.”  
—Lynn Hnynh (Class of ’11, B.A., theatre, film and dance, Humboldt State University)

“I wanted to be here today because I’m involved in a club called South Pacific Islander Cultural Association, and we do [college] awareness targeting Pacific Islanders at high schools.”  
—Shelly Kim (senior psychology major, CSU Fullerton)


To view more photos from the Journey to Success college fair, CLICK HERE.

For more information about the AAPI initiative, visit




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