College Track recently held a retreat at UC Merced that brought almost 200 staff members from all over the country to the site to "reflect, renew and rise together."
College Track is a 25-year-old program that partners with college students from underserved communities. The nonprofit equips scholars confronting systemic barriers and provides a comprehensive, 10-year-long program that prepares them academically, financially, socially and emotionally for college and beyond. The retreat provided the group the opportunity to be in the same room together for the first time since 2018 and featured engaging speakers, a variety of team-building exercises and fellowship.
Not surprisingly, the majority of students enrolled in the program are the first in their families to go to college. This is just one of the commonalities at the heart of a budding partnership between College Track and UC Merced, a campus where 75% of the student body are first-generation college students. College Track has 71 undergraduates currently enrolled at UC Merced and another 46 UC Merced alumni.
"Having been a first-generation college student myself, I understand the challenges that they face in learning to navigate higher education," said Alejandro Delgadillo, associate director for educational equity and access at the UC Merced Calvin E. Bright Success Center. "Mutual partnerships like the one between College Track and UC Merced jointly provide a supportive foundation for a scholar's success in and out of the classroom during their tenure at the university."
Early in the retreat, UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz provided a welcome speech along with some words of inspiration to the group, which included staff members from northern and southern California as well as student centers in Colorado, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans.
"The work that College Track is doing to help increase student success is highly commendable, and we were more than happy to host them at UC Merced," said Muñoz. "I am very excited about growing this partnership and what it will mean for our students."
During their stay, attendees made use of campus facilities, dining together at UC Merced's Pavilion and Yablokoff-Wallace Dining Center and socializing in Mariposa Hall's lounges. A popular spot was the pool at the Aquatics Center. They also explored nearby communities and got a taste of Central Valley cuisine.
College Track leaders say that they appreciated the hospitality and look forward to the continued partnership with UC Merced.
"I am extremely grateful to Chancellor Muñoz and the many UC Merced leaders, staff and faculty who prioritize and empower first-generation college students and those from underserved communities," said College Track President and CEO Shirley M. Collado, Ph.D. "I look forward to transformative collaborations as we unite to really move the needle on educational equity and justice in our communities and in our country."