The second-annual College Success Collaborative Conference was held Wednesday evening on the Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton (SHS) campus, sponsored by the school and numerous educational and non-profit institutions.
Keynote speaker Christina Fletes-Romo, a deputy city attorney at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, spoke about challenges she surmounted as a first-generation college student.
A graduate of Woodside High School, Fletes-Romo obtained both a bachelor’s degree and juris doctor degree from UC Berkeley despite “facing racism and people in power who said college was not for people [like her].” She went on to earn a master’s degree from Harvard University where she was named a Gleitsman Leadership Fellow, and since has dedicated her career to racial, social, and economic justice issues.
Geared toward first-generation college students, the 150 attendees were primarily made up of current college students and recent high school graduates from the Bay Area—with numerous college-bound Sacred Heart alumni in attendance.
Recent Sacred Heart Preparatory (SHP) graduates Sophia Torres (SHP '22) and Michelle Hernandez-Garduza (SHP '22) were among the alumnae.
Torres, who will attend Cornell University in the fall and plans to major in economics, said Fletes-Romo’s story was powerful and relatable.
“I like how she told her story—it was personal but also very universal. A lot of us have parents who have placed a huge emphasis on the importance of education, I know it was that way for me. She took that belief that her parents had and went so far as to become a lawyer. It was very inspirational to see someone in our own shoes be so successful,” said Torres.
Next on the agenda were nine workshop offerings, along with a socializing block for students to network. Workshop topics ranged from career exploration, graduate school, mental health, prepping for DACA, and more.
Torres and Hernandez-Garduza chose to attend the same workshops, one on building financial acumen and one on job interview tips.
Financial guides Clarita Lopez and Daisy Lopez led the popular “Money Talk” workshop held in the Campbell Center on the SHP campus.
Hernandez-Garduza said the workshop motivated her to think more about investing and achieving a financially secure future. “As a low-income student my entire life, one thing I’ve thought about is money—I want to know that I can save up and have a better life than my parents did financially, so that’s why I picked this workshop to gain some new knowledge.”
Torres agreed, saying it was “very helpful how they instructed us on different ways to invest money.”
“Growing up experiencing financial insecurity, I want to be able to break that cycle and provide for my family,” said Torres.
Summing up the conference, Hernandez-Garduza said that as a student headed to Santa Clara University with her major still to be determined, “it was a really motivating experience to know that working hard is worth it,” whichever course of study or career path she chooses. “This conference is a nice resource to have—to know that every year we can come and learn new things.”
Both hope to attend the conference again next summer and take different workshops.
The College Success Collaborative Conference sponsors included Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton; College Track; East Palo Alto Academy Foundation; Foundation for a College Education; Peninsula Bridge; Peninsula College Fund; Pursuit of Excellence; and the Rotary Club of Menlo Park.