College Access Plan Celebrates Helping Students Navigate a Course To and Through College

By EDDIE RIVERA, Editor, Weekendr Magazine
Published on Mar 27, 2023

College Access Plan’s Michael Ocon, Mo Hyman and Natalie Harris. [Eddie rivera/Pasadena Now]

Forty-five minutes before his Stanford University’s 2017 application period was closing, Pasadena High School student Michael Ocon was still undecided about applying. He had done the work and filled out the application, but, nervous about the fee and fearful of being rejected, he couldn’t bring himself to click “send.” 

“My  counselor reached out to me, and she said,  ‘Michael, I need you to apply,’ but I wasn’t gonna waste $90 for a rejection,” Ocon recalled at the group’s “Spring Fever” Family and Friends fundraiser held Sunday afternoon.

“I didn’t think it was worth it,” Ocon said,  “I was like, ‘I’m not gonna do this,’ but then I pressed ‘send,’ and that was the start of the new journey for me. I got in with a full ride.”

As Executive Director Mo Hyman said Sunday, between greeting program graduates, board members and associates, “CAP is a drop-in program. We’re open to all students, so they come to us when they need us with what they need. So we start working with students as early as middle school. Now this year, for the first time, fifth graders, since we’ve started serving all the fifth graders at Madison and Washington Elementary School in their classrooms.”

Hyman continued, “Students can come to us from wherever they are in the (college) process, and we are prepared to follow them from day one. 

“We are there with them,” said Hyman, from, “‘How do I even know that I want to go to college? Two, how do I know which colleges I want to apply to?’ to ‘Here’s how you become a competitive applicant to those specific colleges that you wish to apply to, including writing personal statements, and competing in the holistic admissions process, taking admissions tests, if that’s necessary.’”

CAP then supports its students all the way through the financial aid process, and then through the enrollment process, added Hyman, as well as supporting its students to and through college. 

“So we stay with them through college graduation,” said Hyman.

In addition to her role at CAP, Hyman also serves on the Leadership Council of Collaborate PASadena, a shared initiative of the Pasadena Public School district, community organizations, and the city/local governments of Pasadena, Altadena, and Sierra Madre. She also serves on the board of Action Kivu, a nonprofit organization that collaborates with local nongovernmental organizations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and invests in Congo’s women, children, and communities through vocational training and education.

CAP’s drop-in program serves high school students, one-to-one in a computer lab setting that encourages peer collaboration. The program is available  to any student who wishes to identify colleges that match their interests and personalities, receive comprehensive college application assistance, understand college majors and career pathways, and submit financial aid applications (FAFSA and California Dream Act). 

The program also helps identify scholarships for students, helps students write and review personal statements and scholarship essays, create a community college transfer plan, activate college student portals and submit housing applications.

The CAP drop-in programs meet after school twice-per-week at Blair, John Muir, Marshall Fundamental, and Pasadena high schools, and are a collaboration with the PasadenaLEARNs after school program

CAP also partners with PasadenaLEARNs after school programs at Blair, Marshall, Washington, Eliot, and Sierra Madre middle schools to provide courses focused on exploring college, career, academic, and personal interests. The courses are open to anyone who wishes to learn about college and explore a variety of paths for their future. Course offerings are paired with parent engagement workshops.

CAP programs run year-round and are free and open to all Pasadena Unified students and their families.

“(College Access Plan) made sure that I got through,” said Ocon, who is now a CAP board member, helping to recruit and encourage other young students who might be unsure or fearful regarding the college process. 

“One thing that we talk about,” said Ocon, “is that it’s one thing to get there, it’s another to get through. So throughout my time there, I’ve received a lot of mentorship from the counselors program. 

“I graduated in 2021, so throughout my time there with Mo and with Kate and with my CAP counselors, I  just was always able to rely on them. They had a strong alumni network. They would communicate with me, and send us care packages for the finals and midterms. And so, I just really felt held by this program.”

More information about College Access Plan is available at (626) 398-8500.

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