Posted by Tom Kelly on Jun 05, 2019

Park City Rotary's support has provided a Bright Future for these students.

Innovative Park City High School program sends 13 first generation students to college

Standing in front of the luncheon crowd, high school graduates Cris Mora and Sadie Ortiz were beaming with pride. In the audience of the Park City Rotary Club, members welled up with pride knowing the role they had played in a fledgling new program at Park City High School, Bright Futures, that was sending Cris and Sadie off to college.

Both Cris and Sadie’s families are from Mexico. Both students have grown up in Park City. They will become the first members of their extended families to attend college. In fact, they are the first to graduate from high school. Their success was due in large part to the intensive mentoring program Bright Futures brought to both the students and their families to help them understand the long term value of education. For many first generation students, it is a huge cultural change for their families.

Two years ago, Bright Futures was a fledgling startup, patterned after a similar program in Pomona Calif. It was the first of its kind in Utah and found an amazing incubator in Park City High School. But it needed more support to succeed.

Seeing that need, the Park City Rotary Club chose Bright Futures as one of three special grant recipients. The club provided a seed grant of $50,000, which was matched by another to create a $100,000 gift to the program.

“It’s stories like Chris and Sadie that inspire me.” said Bright Futures Program Manager Rebeca Gonzalez. “They know that they will be mentors for others.

“Thank you for believing in our program. I hope you see the tremendous impact you have made with your contribution.”

Gonzalez knows first hand the challenges students like Cris and Sadie face. She, too, grew up in Mexico with no family history of education. She has shepherded the Bright Futures program with passion for three years and takes great pride in the college diploma and education degree she just received this spring.

Over the past three years, the more than 100 students in the program have learned about higher education. They’ve had ongoing mentoring and attended retreats to learn about college life - both students and their families. The 13 first graduates leave for their new schools this fall with not only a base of knowledge, but with scholarships to help them defray costs - all thanks to Bright Futures.

As they head to college, the next phase of Bright Futures will kick in as the mentoring continues. Following the students through college and helping them with the ups and downs is vital. In the similar program in Pomona, continued mentoring has resulted in an 86% graduation rate.

“Rotary is about service and making our community an even better place to live,” said Rotary President Claudia McMullin. “We supported Bright Future two years ago because we saw the amazing role it could play for the youth of Park City. It’s heartwarming to see how it’s working for the students like Cris, Sadie and the others.”

Standing in front of the crowd and telling their stories, you couldn’t help but be captivated by their enthusiasm, wisdom and passion for the opportunity they have. Most of all, you saw the pride they had in representing their families.
Mora speaks eloquently about the challenges he and other immigrants face as they navigate the new world of higher education. Ortiz gave an insightful look into the impact of cultural differences and how she battled to achieve opportunities as an AP student.

Both of their families have recognized this opportunity. “My parents have been very supportive,” said Mora. “They’ve made it clear the objective is school.”

“My parents know school comes first,” said Ortiz, who is often the caretaker for her younger siblings. “I know my parents are sacrificing their lives so I have a better life.”

Bright Futures was one of three recipients of special Park City Rotary Club grants two years ago. The others included Citizens for Summit County Justice Center and PC Tots.
Interested in volunteering to help students in this remarkable program, contact Rebeca Gonzales or Nikki Blumin for more info. Volunteer help is needed for an August 5-9 Bright Futures Summer Academy. Click here to make a donation - indicate Bright Futures in the comments.

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