Woodburn High School was abuzz with activity Thursday night, as hundreds of students and their families sought information about postsecondary LINDSAY KEEFER - College Night at Woodburn High School last Thursday attracted more than 300 students and their families, as well as 13 colleges and a representative from the U.S. Navy.

The school’s first College Night, funded by the ECMC Foundation, featured a college fair in the small commons with representatives from 13 colleges and the U.S. Navy, as well as bilingual workshops on the admissions and financial aid processes.

“This is the first event we’ve combined the scholastic visits and the workshop,”?said WAAST Principal Geri Federico. “We will have follow-up sessions and activities for students. We want to support them in both college and career, so we hope to have a career fair as well.”

Attendees entered a scholarship raffle, through which four students walked away with $500 scholarships: Orlando Hernandez of WAAST, Jonathan Uriarte of WAAST, Cesar Ramos of AIS and Joselyn Serrano of LINDSAY KEEFER - Volunteers at College Night on Thursday included juniors (from left) Jazmin Guatemala, Ahlyna Bello and Julizza Ramirez.

While the ECMC Foundation largely funded the night, which also attracted students and families from neighboring communities, it was mostly organized by college and career counselor Mario Garza.

“We’re certainly hoping to make this a yearly thing,” he said. “The main point is we’re trying to get parents more involved in the college admissions and financial aid process. The more they understand, the more they’re able to help and support their students at home.”

Garza said he was grateful for the help of volunteers, which included not just staff members and students, but also advisers with the Upward Bound program at a couple local colleges.

“There’s a want to help this community because a lot of people recognize the challenges our kids and parents have,”?Garza said. “It’s not that (parents) don’t want to support their kids but they don’t know how to support their kids.”

That is part of the reason for the ECMC?Scholars Program at the high school, which is a two-year program in which Garza works closely with 30 juniors and 30 seniors on college readiness skills. This includes taking a college preparedness course, visiting local college campuses and facilitating a mentor relationship with Willamette University students. At the end of each year, 10 of the 30 seniors are selected for a $6,000 scholarship from the ECMC?Foundation, an arm of the Educational Credit Management Corporation.

“Most of this cohort of seniors are on top of their admissions and scholarships, they know what to ask,”? Garza said. “Every year we try to make the program better.”

So when ECMC?Foundation approached the school to host College Night, it ended up being an effective way of reaching the community.

“The goal was just to have access to these people, to have that face-to-face contact,”?Garza said.

“I’m really impressed with the turnout,”?Federico said. “It tells us our students and parents are really interested.”

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