Honors students use Quesada Scholarship to build bridge-to-college program for high school students
The Barrett honors thesis is an opportunity for students to explore an area of their interests and develop a meaningful research or creative project by the time they graduate. All students can apply for funding towards their thesis projects, with additional scholarships available for those who qualify. One such scholarship is the Jose Franco & Francisca Ocampo Quesada Research Award, created to increase understanding of Hispanic culture as related to honors thesis topics.
Six Barrett seniors were awarded a total of over $3,000 as 2016-2017 Quesada Research Award recipients. Meet Levi Haros, a Supply Chain Management student who used his award to investigate the obstacles faced by college-bound high school students. Haros and his thesis partner Ashley Cano, an Accountancy student, developed a college-bridge program for a high school in Yuma, Arizona.
What is your thesis topic?
LH: Our honors thesis project is called "The Kofa High School College Bridge Program" where we try to understand and determine where students at Kofa High School in Yuma go after they graduate high school, realize why they are not attending a four-year university, and determine the drawbacks or disadvantages that the students may face or the lack of preparation from their school. We created monthly workshops for students to learn about their personality, financial aid, scholarships, standardized testing, college applications, etc.
How did your thesis project come about?
AC: I was born and raised in Yuma County while Levi has family and friends who reside there. I attended Kofa High School and graduated in 2013. During my senior year of high school, I wrote in my personal statement that one day I would return to Yuma and give back to my community.
LH: We both know the environment and the disadvantages these students may face. The idea came about from Ashley and I both wanting to create a project where we created a tangible, immediate impact on our community. We think there are many misconceptions about first-generation college-bound students, Hispanics in particular, that scholarships and financial aid will increase their college enrollment rates. But what Ashley and I have found is that it is a multi-dimensional issue. So we wanted to highlight these issues, and create a program for the school administration to build on.
What have been the results of your thesis project?
AC: Our results have been that freshman students at Kofa High School would like to be exposed to college related topics such as scholarships, housing and the overall admissions process early on. They feel like their school does the best that it can to prepare them for college but lacks resources. The students also appreciate hearing about the college experience through a current college student's perspective.
How has this research award impacted your thesis pursuits?
LH: We are able to hold more monthly workshops, give students material for them to keep for the college-admission process, allowing us learn more about the school and the students. We were able to conduct a survey allowing us to get a better insight on the individual students, how the school prepares them for a four-year education, the setbacks that they face, and their wants and needs.
AC: Once we learned what Kofa students yearn to have access to, we were able to execute monthly workshops incorporating their indicated interests. With the additional funds we received, it has allowed us to pay for a school bus and host the students at ASU for a day as well. A university tour was a great interest that was identified in our survey.
If you could give a piece of advice to anyone considering applying for this award, what would it be?
LH: This research award is meant to help make an impact on the Hispanic community. Think of how to make an impact on your community, how you can inspire others, and what you can do to highlight the culture of Hispanics.
On a final note:
AC: Working on this thesis has been really eye-opening. As an alumna who faced similar issues, it was amazing to use research to quantify others’ experiences and create a program that addresses the need. Ultimately, I am so happy I chose to perform this project because feel like it has truly made an impact in my community.
LH: The award helped Ashley and I make a small impact on our community in an immediate way. Every month we travel about 200 miles to Yuma to teach students about the college-admission process and personal development. Even though our impact in numbers is small, the Kofa High School school counselor, Theresa Garcia, reminded us that, "Even if you affect the life of one student, then you've done your job." That is what we hope to accomplish, and this award has helped us do that.