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UC San Diego Extension's Academic Connections Helps 452 High School Students Prepare for College


This summer the University of California San Diego Extension is helping 453 high school students prepare for the rigors of college through Academic Connections, a three-week residential program that provides hands-on educational opportunities for qualified high school students with a special focus on those from underserved communities.

The rigorous program is open to students with a 3.3 GPA, allowing them to receive college credit in such subjects as science, engineering and math. Because it is primarily a residential program, Academic Connections also provides students with a college-like experience to help them prepare for the real thing – both socially and academically.

While the cost of Academic Connections is $3,900, UC San Diego Extension is committed to ensuring that students of different backgrounds and income levels are able to participate by offering a robust scholarship program. Of the 453 students in this year’s Academic Connections class, 157 received some form of assistance totaling almost $421,546 in scholarships. Since 2011, Academic Connections has given out almost $1.5 million in scholarships.

Recipients include foster youth, students from Imperial Valley high schools as well as participants in programs such as Reality Changers and the Barrio Logan College Institute, which are nonprofits that helps disadvantaged youth prepare to attend college. In addition, Academic Connections also hosted students from Vision Mexico, a program of Centro Fox, which is a nonprofit that former Mexico President Vicente Fox started with his wife, Marta, that aims to create socially responsible leaders through education, technology and social participation.

Ed Abeyta, assistant dean for community engagement and director of pre-college programs for UC San Diego Extension, said Academic Connections is part of the university’s larger mission to ensure a diverse and socially engaged campus that truly reflects the San Diego region.

“UC San Diego Extension is committed to being a partner to all of the region’s communities and helping find ways to connect and nurture the brightest young minds that San Diego has to offer, no matter their race, ethnicity or income bracket,” he said.

Abeyta said Academic Connections aligns perfectly with UC San Diego’s Strategic Plan, which looks to foster diversity and inclusion through educational opportunity. Since 2011, 85 percent of all the students who have participated in the program have gone on to college, with 37 percent of those going to UC campuses. Because the program offers college credit, it also helps students graduate from college at a faster pace. This year students came from 20 states and from 7 different countries, including a delegation of 22 students from Washington High School in Taichung, Taiwan.

Ciarra Reyes, a scholarship student from Brawley in Imperial Valley, said attending Academic Connections was an opportunity of a lifetime.

“This is a really good way to experience college life and be prepared mentally and know what your choices are and where you want to go,” she said. “With the connections you make here, if you open up to different people from different places, you can have lifelong friends. I have one roommate from China and another roommate from Atlanta, Georgia. In Brawley, there are a lot of the same people. When we come here, other people are actually interested in our culture and it makes us feel more important and connected to our own culture. I am very grateful to be here; it’s a great opportunity to learn more about yourself and what you can do with your future.” 

Students enrolled in Academic Connections choose from one of approximately 25 course offerings. Classes meet five hours a day, with a maximum of 22 students per class, to ensure quality interaction with instructors and instructional assistants. Academic Connections instructors are typically UC San Diego doctoral students who design and instruct the course. To find out more, please visit

More than 1,000 people, including students, families and friends, are expected to attend a graduation ceremony for Academic Connections on Saturday, July 29 at 9 a.m. at the Price Center on the UC San Diego Campus.