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Family college-readiness program expands access through digital offerings

Recent graduates of ASU's WeGrad program look forward to college application process

Metro Tech High School WeGrad graduates, Photo by Devon Baggot

Friends and family of Metro Tech High School students look on during the Nov. 7 WeGrad program graduation ceremony. Photo by Devon Baggot

November 29, 2023

Students, families and educators from two Valley high schools — Tempe and Metro Tech — gathered earlier this month for a set of empowering ceremonies honoring graduates of Arizona State University’s WeGrad program.

WeGrad aims to accelerate the academic success and educational attainment of students across Arizona, from all backgrounds, cultures and socioeconomic statuses. This mission is achieved through a transformative learning curriculum with self-paced and self-discovery experiences that serve as a model for multicultural family engagement.

“We are proud to say that since 2006, tens of thousands of families have successfully graduated from this program,” said Alejandro Perilla, director of family engagement at Access ASU. “The goal is to increase elementary, middle and high school retention and graduation rates for all students, and to help families gain a better understanding of what they can and must do to make sure that their children go to college. With each graduating class, we increase the number of motivated parents who will advocate for their students to achieve the education they deserve.”

That number is set to increase even more with the recent announcement that WeGrad, which has been conducted in-person over the past 17 years, will now be offered directly to families in a digital format, at no cost, through 2024, thanks to renewed funding and support from American Family Insurance.

The digital format offers a self-paced experience delivered conveniently through SMS text messaging and WhatsApp, and is available in both English and Spanish. The middle school curriculum covers 10 lessons on topics such as parents' role in academic success, making the most of parent-teacher conferences and building responsibility to achieve academic success. The high school curriculum delves deeper into college preparation — with 16 lessons offering insight into university admissions, college entrance exams, high school transcripts, cost and financial aid. The elementary curriculum will be released in January 2024.

The Nov. 1 WeGrad graduation ceremony at Tempe High School celebrated 102 graduates — 78 of whom had perfect attendance — while the Nov. 7 ceremony at Metro Tech High School celebrated 258 graduates — 195 of whom had perfect attendance.

Tempe and Metro Tech are just two of the 12 Maricopa County schools to receive WeGrad programming this semester.

Mia Valenzuela Ochoa, a WeGrad graduate and Tempe High School student, said the program is valuable for both students and parents.

“Some of our parents did not receive an education,” she said. “… But they are here with their child to support them to get a higher education. They want us to succeed and enjoy our dream careers.”

Another WeGrad graduate, Joel Vallejo, a Metro Tech High School sophomore, called the program “amazing.”

“The program helps us make better-educated decisions when determining which college or university is the right fit,” he said. “My experience with WeGrad helped me understand the requirements to enroll in a college and the potential scholarships and financial aid.”

Following their participation in WeGrad, both Valenzuela Ochoa and Vallejo say they plan to further their learning through higher education, with plans to apply to college during their senior years.

To participate in WeGrad, individuals are encouraged to sign up for the Access ASU K–12 Family Fusion newsletter. Subscribers to the newsletter will receive complimentary access to the digital course.

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