KidWorks College Apps Academy is a 25-week program intensive for high school seniors that provides guidance through the college application process including financial aid, scholarships, admissions essays and strategies on how to successfully transition into college. The program meets two hours each week during the fall and every other week for two hours in the spring. The program is led by Brenda Trujillo-Sanchez, KidWorks College Readiness Coordinator.

Milagros, a KidWorks student attending CSU Fullerton shared, “As a first-generation college student, I was overwhelmed about the college process. KidWorks was able to guide me and help fill out my college applications. Ms. Brenda was a great support system.”

The College Apps Academy program makes the transition to college smoother by providing students with the guidance and knowledge they need to pursue higher education. Students are empowered to believe in their own potential and envision themselves on a college campus. The goal is not only to help students through the application process but also to help them be successful once they are on campus.

“KidWorks helped me navigate the college enrollment process and provided a safe space to ask questions about applications and determine which college was the best fit for me; this has really helped me gain confidence to work towards my goals.” –Stephanie, California State University, Fullerton, class of  2025.

The College Apps Academy was originally introduced in 2017 as part of our College Success Initiative thanks to longtime KidWorks supporter, David A Pyle. Over the years, KidWorks launched partnerships with several local school districts so that more high school seniors can benefit from the program. Our goal during the 2020-2021 academic year was to serve 50 seniors, so we opened up the College Apps Academy to all high schools in the Santa Ana Unified School District and surrounding schools.  KidWorks surpassed that goal and have a record 66 students enrolled in the program.

“Segerstrom High School students expressed a great interest in the program. Their classes remain virtual for now,” Brenda says. “Of 66 students enrolled in KidWorks’ College Apps Academy, 31 are from Segerstrom.”

The program has been such a success at this school that Segerstrom High School was recognized by the State of California and the Orange County Board of Education through a competition called “Race to Submit Leaderboard” based on the percentage of students who submitted their financial aid application as of March 2.

“KidWorks was among the partners that Segerstrom High School leaders thanked for playing a role in earning this recognition,” Brenda says. “We are honored to work alongside Ms. Adriana Huezo, their Higher Education Coordinator, along with the school counselors. Together, we instilled a college-bound culture among the students beginning with their freshman year, encouraging them to join college access programs like ours.”

Another KidWorks partnership is with Joya Scholars, an education-focused non-profit based in Fullerton, extending our College Apps Academy to students who are enrolled in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District. Also, one student from El Monte High School participates and one Rosemead High School student participated during the 2020-2021 term.

Brenda is a big believer in the positive impact of programs like the College Apps Academy.

“As a Latinx first-generation college student myself, I believe in the power of community and giving back,” Brenda says. “I am humbled to have the opportunity to help youth through their journey to higher education. Thank you to KidWorks, to our donors and to our partners for making this program possible.”

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer