College can be hard to navigate, but 18 years ago, two City College counselors formed a program to help students transfer to universities — RISE.
Counselors Keith Muraki and Juan LaChica started the group in 1999, along with a number of Pacific Islander students. They created the acronym RISE, which stands for respect, integrity, self-determination and education. The support program helps students seek higher education by following the tenets of its title. It aims to feed both the body and the mind of a student by offering a variety of services, such as weekly food distribution, counseling, college tours, tutoring, book loans and computer lab access.
“When I got out of high school, I came to RISE and they walked me through the process of signing up, because I didn’t know anything,” says RISE member Yazmin Guzman, who came from a first-generation college background.
Now Guzman is giving back. She helps distribute a weekly food program that delivers fresh fruit and vegetables to campus each Wednesday so students won’t go hungry. RISE and the Sacramento Food Bank partner from noon–4 p.m. in front of the College Store. Students line up for free produce for themselves and their families.
“All we ask of them is their household size, because the Food Bank needs to know how much they’re giving out,” says RISE student employee Morgan Alai, who urges students to sign up on the master list in the RISE office, RHS 158. “Different food comes in every Wednesday.”
The goal is to help provide healthy food for financially strapped students, so they have one less worry when juggling the demands of college.
“It’s really a mini-community, an unhidden gem.” says RISE member Fatiatamai Folau.
Once a student’s physical needs are met, the mind can engage in academics and dreams of careers. Separate from the City College counseling department, RISE has its own counselors to help students with transferring, financial aid and personal issues.
The counselors work specifically with RISE students, mostly by appointment, says Alai. However, walk-ins are welcome from 1:30–3 p.m. on weekdays.
“They go in-depth with their appointments,” says Alai, adding that students can stay with a counselor for as long it takes to solve their problems.
Counseling often goes beyond academics, however. Students praise the counselors for their caring ways, for their willingness to help with the problems of life.
“You can always come in here to talk about your personal life, they’re so cool about it,” says Guzman.
Students appreciate the devotion that RISE counselors have for their students.
“These are people who really, actually care about you,” says Folau, “not just your educational goals, but helping you to strive.”
To strengthen student interest in transferring to a university beyond community college, RISE works with Human Career Development 318 classes and with the Transfer Center to take students on college tours, says Alai. Most of the colleges the groups visit are in Northern California, but they also travel to Southern California to visit U.C. Los Angeles, the University of Southern California and U.C. Riverside.
Even if students have difficulty paying for travel costs for college tours, RISE goes above and beyond to make it happen.
“This past summer I was able to go to UCLA for a whole week, and it was paid off and free, and was introduced by RISE,” says Folau. “It was called the CCC program.”
Students can also make hour-long tutoring appointments twice per week, says Alai. Students can get help in subjects such as English, reading, math, physics and Spanish.
“It’s not all the subjects, but it’s mostly all the ones that students really need help with,” says Alai. “The tutoring is for everybody on campus, but is beneficial for those RISE students who sign up.”
Another practical RISE service is the book loan program, which benefits students who cannot afford the high-priced textbooks required for their classes.
“If they are enrolled in the class, and we do have it, all we ask is that they fill out an agreement form saying that they’ll turn it back in at the end of the semester,” says Alai.
Students are limited to two books each semester, but the service is free. All of the books available have been donated to the program.
There are also computers in the RISE office that students can use for printing or online homework, says Alai. Students are welcome to use the computers for as long as they need during the RISE office hours.
RISE has helped a lot of City College students since they first started and will continue to do so.
“Had it not been for RISE, I’d probably be off track,” Guzman says.
As she walks into the RISE office, Guzman sees walls covered with photos of City College students who transferred to universities. Each photo has a story. It’s a hall of fame, one that’s celebrated and idolized by RISE students and staff.
“I always come back and remind myself why I’m still in school,” says Guzman. “When I look up at all those pictures of all the students and just remind myself that I’m going to be up there one day.”