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Inyo-Mono Promise widens pathway to college

March 7, 2014

Eastern Sierra Community College Director Deanna Campbell, UNR Admissions Director Steve Maples and Inyo County Superintendent of Schools Terry McAteer (l-r) are key collaborators in the formation of the Inyo-Mono Promise, a program designed to assist students on their path from high school to community college and university. Photo by Marilyn Blake Philip

Cerro Coso Bishop campus’ hallway was packed on Tuesday with Inyo and Mono county educators, local officials, students and other community members at a reception for University of Nevada at Reno staff in a celebration of the Inyo-Mono Promise.
The recently-formed brainchild of Inyo County Superintendent of Schools Terry McAteer, Inyo-Mono Promise has created a more navigable pathway to higher education at sister school UNR for hundreds of eligible Inyo and Mono high school and Cerro Coso Community College students. The Promise is designed provide greater access to tier-one, top-ranked UNR’s 75 major and 65 Ph.D programs, said the UNR Admissions Director Dr. Steve Maples, the March 4 reception guest of honor.
The Promise is the result of collaboration between McAteer, Maples, Eastern Sierra Community College Director Deanna Campbell and Mono County Superintendent of Schools Stacey Adler, who was absent from the reception due to a recent back surgery.
“We are here to celebrate the K-14 students who have found a pathway to higher education,” McAteer told attendees. “The Inyo-Mono Promise is a means to create enthusiasm around the partnership (with UNR), to feel actually wanted by UNR” as opposed to the distant, if not nonexistent, relationship county high school students experience with the current closest provider of university education, California State University, Bakersfield.
McAteer pointed out that locals are more familiar with Reno because they routinely go there to shop, recreate and visit doctors. “We want kids to go off to college and matriculate back into the community to become active, productive members of the community.”
Inyo-Mono Promise offers a three-fold path to university: from high school to community college; from community college to UNR; or from high school directly to UNR. Eligible students receive free Cerro Coso Community College tuition plus $300 for books for two years and/or a reduced non-resident UNR tuition of $4,309 per semester for four years as well as a one-time $1,000 scholarship. In addition to more than $2,600 in tuition savings, UNR “offers a full range of financial aid and scholarships,” Maples said. “Eligible top students – with a 3.5 GPA, 31 ACT composite score or 1380 SAT score in critical reading and math – can also receive up to $5,000 in presidential scholarships per year for four years.”
Campbell said, “This Promise provides tremendous opportunities for our students,” who can complete the first two years of credits transferable to UNR. Many have also taken advantage of reduced tuition through West Undergraduate Exchange – information is posted on www.unr.edu, she added – and the community-funded Eastern Sierra and Mammoth Lakes foundations’ scholarships have assisted students who otherwise “would never have even been able to attend community college.”
What is free for the counties’ high school students is a trip to UNR. “We want to get every student and their family onto to campus through Nevada Bound,” McAteer said, and the Promise will pay for travel, meal and El Dorado Hotel lodging expenses. Three Nevada Bound student trips are planned before June 2013, Bishop Unified School District Superintendent Barry Simpson said, during which students attend classes in their intended major, talk with UNR students, discover what campus life is like and “get the real feel of what it is to attend UNR. The value per dollar can’t really be matched by what California universities offer. They can’t guarantee classes or four-year graduation. UNR can.”
With only two universities in the state, UNR and University of Nevada Las Vegas, which are 422 miles apart, each campus must provide a comprehensive education, Maples said. “We don’t have to compete for funding” like California’s many colleges do. That funding fuels UNR’s goal of housing 80 percent of its freshmen in the next three years by building new resident halls every other year and the completion of construction projects such as a “$64 million student achievement center, a wellness center and a math and science center that adds 28 state-of-the-art science labs.”
Jill Kinmont Boothe School teacher Sarah Vega mentioned other UNR perks. The UNR alumni who matriculated back to Bishop said professors get to know their students right away; there is free tutoring and other help for struggling students such as therapy dogs; there are ways to snag a free meal or two; and UNR has an active campus social life that includes movie nights. “The Promise means that many more students can experience UNR as I did,” she said.
The reception was the centerpiece of Maples’ visits with Inyo and Mono county high school student bodies. Mammoth High School Principal Chris Powell said Maples’ meeting with approximately 300 MHS students “went great.” The kids participated vigorously “with good engaging questions.”
For his part, Maples said he was impressed with Inyo-Mono Promise, a “complete movement” on the part of McAteer and the entire community. After approaching Maples with the Promise concept in fall 2013, McAteer took dozens of community members to UNR “so they could understand the Inyo-Mono Promise.” Seeing a campus makes it a real objective not just a concept, Maples explained. Bishop Unified School District Superintendent Barry Simpson, who attended that Feb. 18 UNR trip with the local board of education, Foundation for Excellence representatives, school personnel and tribal leadership, praised McAteer for raising student “aspirations by making a four-year school more attainable by getting them on campus.”
According to Mammoth Unified School District Superintendent Lois Klein, her district joined the Inyo Promise a few months ago, making it the Inyo-Mono Promise. “Where else can you get this quality of education for such a low cost today? We also encourage concurrent high school enrollment so students can graduation with some college credits … Inyo-MonoPromise has no limit” to the number of students it can accommodate.
Owens Valley Career Development Center Executive Director Alexander Yazza Jr. said he appreciates “McAteer’s vision of providing not only quality education but career pathways … OVCDC is making plans to establish career pathways for Native American youth (because it is important to have education) to have skills for a meaningful career and have a good life.”
Maples said, “We’re in the business of producing great minds for our nation’s workforce and the Promise movement means very talented student will come to our campus.”

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