‘Making an impact’: UC Berkeley organizations expand educational equity

Photo of sign of Stiles Hall
Meghnath Dey/Staff
Campus college prep services range from tutoring and test preparation to mental and emotional support.

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Students and organizations at UC Berkeley focused on expanding educational opportunities have worked on providing test preparation services, emotional guidance, academic advising and legal advocacy.

Stiles Hall is one such campus organization, providing tutoring and mentorship to local, low-income high school students. According to the director of community programs Itcelia Segoviano-Ramirez, Stiles Hall strives to “create pathways to self-determination,” particularly for low-income, underrepresented students of color.

“Our hope is that through mentorship and leadership we can encourage students to pursue a path they love and can succeed in,” Segoviano-Ramirez said in an email.

Segoviano-Ramirez noted that Stiles Hall offers tutoring and mentorship programs in K-12 schools such as Thousand Oaks Elementary, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, Summit K2, Sylvia Mendez Elementary School and two high schools in Coachella and Bakersfield.

According to Segoviano-Ramirez, UC Berkeley students who are Stiles Hall mentors can earn community service hours or units. She added that the organization leads the Berkeley Scholars to Cal program, which provides leadership and academic support, as well as works to assist students in matriculating to four-year colleges.

Segoviano-Ramirez also said Stiles Hall spearheads the Experience Berkeley Program for high school and transfer students.

Having volunteered for Stiles Hall as a campus freshman in 2015 and mentoring a fifth grader at Rosa Parks Elementary School, Segoviano-Ramirez said she still keeps in touch with her program mentee.

“My time volunteering with Stiles was truly one of a kind and I really felt like I was making an impact and growing as a leader,” Segoviano-Ramirez said. “We really do encourage students to keep in touch with Stiles Hall and try to support them through their whole academic journey.”

Campus organization College Admissions Mentorship Program, or CAMP, also works to expand access to college preparation services to underrepresented and low-income high school students in the Bay Area, according to CAMP President Spencer Zezulka. 

Previously called People’s Test Preparation Service, or PTPS, CAMP rebranded over the pandemic after the university stopped accepting standardized tests such as the SAT for college admissions and eventually made test scores optional, according to Zezulka.

Due to this shift, campus student mentors at CAMP began to move away from focusing on providing SAT preparation services for high school students. Currently, CAMP assists students with getting into college through free counseling, Zezulka added.

He noted that CAMP mentors are paired with high school students in need of academic support and meet at least once a week in an “individualized” and remote format.

“The classes are done all over Zoom, and basically, those students arrange whatever is most convenient,” Zezulka said. “We let them meet at least once a week for about an hour or two depending on their needs.”

While he explained that CAMP offers student mentors one unit of fieldwork through the education minor program, Zezulka noted that the teaching staff comes from a “whole host” of majors.

Just like Stiles Hall, CAMP’s connections between mentors and mentees run deep, as Sophia Bertoldo, who participated in the program as a high school student, is now the organization’s director of external recruitment. According to Bertoldo, she was involved with the organization back when it was known as PTPS and was encouraged by her mentors to apply for the program as a teacher once she was accepted into UC Berkeley.

“It has been super rewarding,” Bertoldo said in an email. “We are helping them open so many doors to opportunities.”

According to its website, Project SMILE — the largest student-run one-on-one mentorship organization on campus — provides emotional and academic support to middle school students.

In addition to providing academic services for middle school students, there are also many campus organizations that strive to serve high school students. The Foster Education Project pairs campus School of Law students with high school foster students, where law students serve as the foster students’ legal education rights holders, according to the Berkeley Law website.

The Early Academic Outreach Program also aims to close the opportunity gap and expand access to higher education for underserved students in the Bay Area by providing academic advising services, SAT preparation and assistance with scholarship applications, according to its website.

“Helping kids who don’t have the money or resources to apply to college is a life-changing thing,” Bertoldo said in the email. “Especially for me, having been a student and a teacher, it really feels like I’m giving back.”

Contact Rina Rossi at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @RinaRossi8.