Police Chief Cam Sanchez speaks to youths as Casa de la Raza on the benefits of education.

Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez was at La Casa de la Raza, a non-profit community center, on Tuesday to congratulate the 42 students who are completing the College Readiness Academy by the end of this week.

A five-week summer program targeted to students entering the 8th and 9th grades, the College Readiness Academy requires students to complete an application similar to one they might send in when trying to get into college later in life. A total of 45 students, the majority of which were Latino, were accepted to the Academy this summer. The program is a result of a partnership between La Casa de la Raza and UCSB’s Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) program. The main focus of the five weeks is algebra, a pivotal subject for kids heading into high school and eventually college. The students start at algebra or pre-algebra, depending on their background, and move on to a MESA class and a college and career readiness class. These aim not only help prepare the students for high school but also to help them figure out what it is they want to study in college and do for a living.

“You can reach your dreams” – that was Chief Sanchez’s main message as he addressed the “college-bound, brilliant students” who gathered at La Casa de la Raza today. He related to the students by telling his own story of moving to the United States, starting school, learning English, and eventually becoming a policeman. He encouraged the students to be appreciative of their teachers and parents. Sanchez wished he had thanked his parents for their hard work and admitted, “I thought my dad didn’t know anything.” He also challenged the students to stay in school and make good decisions; he said, “There’s no such thing as a bad kid – just a bad decision.”

After his address, Chief Sanchez introduced Mayor Marty Blum and the several city councilmembers in attendance. Blum also took a couple minutes to congratulate the students. Sanchez then took questions from the students, some of them funny, some of them poignant. Sanchez referenced the recent July 4th stabbings, saying, “It breaks my heart to see a young teenager kill another, just because one lands on the Eastside and one lands on the Westside.” He said that if he could go to events like this everyday, he would love his job much more.

One of the graduating students, 14-year-old Ricardo Castaneda, is headed to Santa Barbara High School in the fall. He said he is a little scared, but excited at the same time; he has several friends from his middle school making this transition with him. “I hope to go to college,” said Castaneda, and when asked where he would go if he had any choice in the world, he immediately said UCSB. He thinks he wants to study business in college but knows he has a couple years to make that decision.


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