On the road to college

On the road to college

Education professor’s site takes first-generation college-goers from A—G to B.A.Ph.D.

Rebecca Joseph and Adrian Rodriguez '04 film an introduction video for a web site.

Charter College of Education associate professor Rebecca Joseph and videographer/web developer Adrian Rodriguez ’04 create an introduction video for Joseph’s newly launched web site for first-generation college students.

Rebecca Joseph, an associate professor of education, has devoted much of her life to making sure students know that—with good work—they have the right and the skills to go to college.

“I don’t think it has to be a game of musical chairs,” Joseph said. “There are enough schools and spots for everyone.”

Joseph, who discovered her career path in education as an inner-city Baltimore middle school teacher, has taken that message on the road with her for years. And to ensure that it reaches students, she has taught her teaching credential students about counseling, hosted free weekday and weekend essay writing workshops, and visited area high schools to emphasize the benefits of a college education.

“I try to reach (prospective college students) wherever I can,” she said, noting, however, that being one person against thousands of students, she is limited in her potential outreach. In the Los Angeles Unified School District alone, there are more than 30,000 students graduating annually.

That is why Joseph has changed her approach from face-to-face meetings to communicating online through discussion boards, web sites and social networking. On her recently launched web site—www.getmetocollege.org—Joseph provides first-generation college students tips on applying to college, reminders about upcoming entrance exams and CSU/UC requirements, and answers to students’ questions in a discussion forum. Joseph gears the site to first-generation college students because more obstacles exist, yet fewer resources are available to help apply and attend.

“It’s about giving these kids the language and the tools to ask the right questions,” she said, adding that the content and the discussions online are determined by what students want.

Portrait of Teresa Wu '09.

In developing the site, Joseph drew upon years of research and interviews with high school teachers, counselors, and students, especially seniors. She has also worked closely with Cal State L.A. graduate student Adrian Rodriguez ’04, who designed and built the site through the Charter College of Education’s advanced studies and technology internship program. Teresa Wu ’09, a teaching credential student, also contributed to the site’s development.

Portrait of Adrian Rodriguez '04.

Joseph credits Rodriquez, an alumnus and middle school teacher, with finding innovative and creative ways to reach students through social networking sites, video and other online resources. In addition to the web site, he has created accounts with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

“I think what CSULA does so well is it lets professors work one-on-one with graduate and credential students,” Joseph said. “When we do that, it makes our work so much better. This site is an example of that.”

Joseph introduced the site to high school seniors throughout Los Angeles County this fall. Even before unveiling the project, though, she received applause from college counselors, teachers and Cal State L.A. alumni who talked about the need for and value of a web site of this nature.

“I just grew up knowing that I was going to college and that colored everything I did,” said Yael Gurse, an alumna, PE teacher and girls’ volleyball coach at Morningside High School in Inglewood. “These kids don’t. They need to hear about college in every which way they can.”

Anne Cochran, a college counselor at Champs Charter High School in Van Nuys, agreed, noting that college counselors and students welcome additional resources that will help them wade through the “vast and deep body of information” about applying to college. For the past two years, Joseph has offered a free two-day workshop to help Champs students prepare CSU and UC applications.

“Rebecca will reach people where they are most accessible—on Twitter and Facebook… I think that will help her get her message out,” Cochran added.