In the Summer of 2017, the East Side Education Foundation joined the Spartan East Side Promise, a partnership with the East Side Alliance, San José State University, and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation that guarantees SJSU enrollment for East Side graduates meeting California State University requirements and supports students on their path to a college degree with orientations, counseling, mentoring, and scholarship opportunities.
Economists are in general agreement that California’s burgeoning economy requires a minimum of 40% of high school graduates to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher. While significant progress has been made, research shows that fewer than 10% of Latino or African American ninth-graders earn bachelor’s degrees within six years of high school graduation.
If Hispanic and African American student performance grew to be comparable to white performance and remained there over the next 80 years, the impact would be a staggering $50 trillion to our economy – more than three times the current GDP. This represents income that we forego by not ensuring equity for all in our schools.
Latinos and African Americans make up nearly 60% of the students in the East Side Union High School District. Additionally, many East Side graduates are the first in their families to go to college and receive minimal support from home. Even when our students decide to pursue a higher education, the process of applying, registering, and completing a degree program presents entirely new challenges. For example, some students do not realize that their final transcripts must be forwarded to colleges to show they completed all of the courses required for admission. One student recently reported missing an orientation because they didn’t know how to get to the campus.
What steps can be taken to ensure that students reach their full potential and graduate from college? How can we help them cross the finish line to achieve more fruitful careers, have more opportunities in life, and ultimately contribute more to our future? These are questions the Foundation has been asking since our inception, and we believe we’ve found at least some of the answers.
With the Spartan East Side Promise, the Foundation has created a model that is unique among school systems in California – and possibly the nation. Combining best practice models from three different school systems (Long Beach, San Francisco, and Oakland Unified), an integrated program provides a pathway to college, a savings program, and scholarships.
Since its inception, more than 1,600 students have participated in the Spartan East Side Promise program. Overall, the SESP has helped to increase SJSU enrollment of East Side grads by 50%. In Fall 2016, 1,608 ESUHSD students applied for admission and 436 enrolled for their first semester, compared to 1,903 ESUHSD student applications and 658 enrollments in Fall 2022. More importantly, 83% of SESP students return for their sophomore years, compared to 79% for the entire student body, and 98% of program participants report finding it helpful or very helpful.
Every summer for the past six years, hundreds of East Side graduates have participated in learning modules for everything from scheduling courses to mapping majors, working with advisors, and making peer connections. The SESP Summer Program is led by ESUHSD counselors working alongside undergraduate admissions staff at SJSU, with support from dozens of current SJSU students and fellow East Side graduates who step up to mentor incoming students. A record 292 students participated in activities both on campus and online in 2023.
Even after students adjust to campus life, they continue to struggle with the increasingly mounting costs of a “public” education, including housing, tuition, books, transportation, and more. In too many cases, students end up quitting school and reluctantly choosing a job that ironically barely keeps them financially afloat. The Foundation is proud to offer a Scholarship Program for Spartan East Side Promise students to help them focus more on getting an education and less on affording basic needs.
Over the past three years, the Foundation has awarded $131,500 in scholarships to 114 students, 98% of whom identify as BIPOC — including 39% Latinx, 21% Vietnamese, and 15% Filipinx. Taken in aggregate, the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) cohort represents 51%.
We look forward to sharing more stories and impacts as we continue to build out the program and our first cohort of participants graduates from San José State!
Want to learn more? Watch this video of a recent Zoom presentation:
Spartan East Side Promise Team
Amanda Aldama Fernandes, Program Manager, San José State University
Ph: (408) 924-2554 | Email
Heidi Boyd, Subject Area Coordinator for Counseling, ESUHSD
Ph: (408) 347-5247 | Email
Binh Lieu, Head Counselor, Oak Grove HS
Ph: (408) 347-6630 | Email
Follow @sjsu_sesp on Instagram!
The Spartan East Side Promise is made possible through the generous support of our partners:
House Family Foundation
Education Opportunity Fund
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez
Santa Clara County Supervisor Otto Lee