It takes a village to raise a child and an even bigger village to raise a community to new heights. The PEAC Community Fellows for Education is an innovative new program that does just that.
This unprecedented collaboration — which stands for “Program for Effective Access to College” — is between UCSB and the Santa Barbara Unified School District, with support from the James S. Bower Foundation, Hazen Family Foundation, and the Helen and Will Webster Foundation. It kicked off this summer to fund teacher training at UCSB for four college graduates who, upon earning their teaching credentials, will receive an opportunity to teach in Santa Barbara public schools.
First-generation college graduates Alejandrina and Maria Lorenzano, Evely Jimenez, and Monica Rojas have each received full funding to attend UCSB’s acclaimed Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, with scholarships in honor of beloved educator Jo Ann Caines.
This fellowship embodies the mission of the Gevirtz School, said Dean Jeffrey Milem. “It stresses the important role that education plays in helping to build a democratic society that is becoming increasingly diverse,” he explained. “Our teacher candidates commit to an intensive 12-month program, and with teaching placements during the day and graduate classes at night, there is no time for them to work, too.” That’s where the foundations step in to ensure these students “get a first-class education without incurring large debt.”
The four young women are now finishing up their first placements. Alejandrina Lorenzano, for instance, has been working at Santa Barbara High School with Joe Velasco in an English class. “Things are going great. We have settled into the rhythm of things a bit,” she said. “Every day is different, and every day I learn more about my students, about learning, and about teaching. As I worked more and more within the class, I have come to realize that this is the work I want to be doing.”
Alejandrina’s twin sister, Maria Lorenzano enioyed her time at Dos Pueblos working with teacher Kelly Savio. “She was really able to challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone when it comes to instructing a class for the first time,” said Lorenzano. “I am excited to see what each day will have in store for me while I am there. Sure, there are times when stress would set in; however, I have enjoyed every moment I have experienced so far.”
The twins bought their mother a “UCSB Mom” sweatshirt when they found out they were accepted into the program, which led to “a lot of happy tears.” They hope to serve the Santa Barbara community for as long as they can. “We are hoping to continue to get others interested in the PEAC Fellowship to help ensure it continues to help students who want to dedicate themselves to teaching,” they said.