New school year brings new services to Hoover High

As students get ready to kick off a new school year, the City Heights Educational Collaborative is geared up to launch new support services and educational initiatives aimed at helping Hoover High students graduate and go on to college.

The Collaborative – a partnership between Price Charities, San Diego State University and the San Diego Unified School District – hopes to solidify the academic gains Hoover has made in recent years.

Principal Chuck Podhorsky said that every year the school adds to its system of academic and social support to ensure students have all the resources needed to succeed. “There is a promise that I make to parents that we essentially hold students’ hands from the time they get to Hoover all the way to graduation day,” he said.

Here we highlight what will be new in Hoover in the 2011-12 school year:

Expanded mental health services
A comprehensive mental health program will be developed at Hoover starting this fall to tackle depression and other psychiatric conditions among students and families who are underinsured, uninsured and undocumented.

Currently, the campus Health Center is able provide mental health services only to those with Medi-Cal. With the expanded program, all students and their families will have access to counseling, case management and therapy, whether they have insurance or not and regardless of their immigration status.

“We are responding to a need,” said Dorothy Zirkle, director of health services at Price Charities. “Their mental health and wellness is just incredibly at risk. It’s a forgotten issue.”

Price Charities is partnering with La Maestra Community Health Centers to add staffing to the Health Center. For the first time, the center will have a bilingual licensed clinical social worker who can provide psychotherapy and clinical treatment. This person will work under the guidance of Roberto Velasquez, the family wellness director for La Maestra who has a Ph.D. in psychology.

The mental health team will also include another person with either a master’s degree in social work or a license in marriage and family therapy. The staff will be assisted by additional trainees and interns from San Diego State University’s graduate programs in social work and marriage and family therapy.

“In partnership with La Maestra and San Diego State, the number of families and students we will be able to serve at Hoover High School will be phenomenal,” Zirkle said.

Peggy Jones, who has two grandchildren at Hoover High and who frequently volunteers there, said she sees many at-risk youths who can benefit from additional mental health services. “There’s an awful lot of kids who are just in school because they have to be in school, or they are trying to get away from their parents at home. They need somebody to talk to,” she said.

Early college program to get underway

Hoover will also be launching an early college program in partnership with San Diego City College, targeting at-risk students who need extra help to make it to college. The plan is for City College professors to come to Hoover to co-teach with the instructors there. In the summer, a special program will be created for Hoover students to take classes at City College. Down the road, the early college program will enable students to earn college credits.

“We want students to be comfortable with the idea of college,” said Tim Allen, executive director of the City Heights Educational Collaborative and the College Avenue Compact, which focuses on Hoover and its feeder schools, Monroe Clark Middle and Rosa Parks Elementary.

He added, “We want students to have options. We think community college is a great option.”

The early college initiative represents an extension of the College Avenue Compact, which offers Hoover students guaranteed admission to San Diego State University if they meet certain academic criteria. The first group of Hoover students to go on to San Diego State under the Compact started classes at the university on Aug. 29.

GEAR UP cohorts coming to Hoover

In the new school year, GEAR UP to College Avenue Compact will have a much bigger presence at Hoover. Recent graduates of Monroe Clark and Wilson middle schools enrolled in the college readiness program will become freshmen at Hoover. Along with them will come a host of support services, such as tutoring, mentoring, career exploration, academic enrichment, and motivational activities for students and parents.

GEAR UP, which is federally funded, stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. The program seeks to engage students, involve parents, and support school staff to cultivate a college-going culture. It works hand in hand with the City Heights Educational Collaborative’s College Avenue Compact to prepare students for higher education.

GEAR UP will be housed in Room 206 at Hoover and will have seven to eight math and science tutors and four college advisors, all of whom are current undergraduate students at San Diego State.

Hoover students, welcome to a new school year!

By Helen Gao, City Heights Life