Filmmakers, Wells Fargo launch college search initiative

National initiative to promote college access, success kicks off in Los Angeles.

go-collegeA new education initiative,Go College! Now, is dedicated to improving college access and completion for all students, particularly first generation and low-income students.

The initiative is a new campaign from award-winning filmmakers Adam and Jaye Fenderson of Three Frame Media and Wells Fargo.

Go College! Now serves to raise awareness about the challenges first generation and low-income students face navigating the college search, application and enrollment process. The initiative also aims to shine a light on solutions and provide students, educators and families much-needed resources to better inform their decision-making process, including a new college access curriculum for high school educators to use in the classroom.

“Any student, regardless of their background, has the potential to go to and succeed in college,” said Adam Fenderson, director and producer of the documentary “First Generation” and co-founder of Go College! Now. “We want to ensure all students and families understand what they need to do to prepare, what they should be looking for in a higher education institution and the many resources out there to help finance the cost of college. They can make it happen, and we are here to help.”

The national kick-off event took place at UCLA Community School on the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex, where more than 500 high school students attended a screening of the documentary “First Generation”, which details the higher education pursuits of four first-generation students and provides expert insights about the implications of these issues on the economy and the future for hundreds of thousands of low-income, first generation students. The screening was followed by remarks from LAUSD Board of Education President Steve Zimmer and an interactive panel discussion moderated by Los Angeles Times and former Huffington Post education reporter Joy Resmovits. Panelists included two students featured in “First Generation”, Cecilia Lopez and Dontay Gray, now college graduates telling the rest of their story; filmmakers and co-founders of Go College! Now, Adam and Jaye Fenderson; and Wells Fargo Education Financial Services assistant vice president Casey Galindo.

“Public schools must be champions for college readiness, ensuring that every student who graduates is equipped to succeed beyond high school,” said Steve Zimmer, president of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. “But it’s a collaborative effort; we need the support of families and communities to help our students achieve their dreams.”

More than 4,500 students, educators and community supporters from 70 plus schools and organizations across the country participated in Go College! Day by attending local screenings of “First Generation” and holding discussions about the important issues facing college-bound students today. In addition, nearly 400 people nationwide have already pledged their support and commitment to increasing college access for first generation and low-income students.

“Creating opportunities where we can remind students, especially first generation students, of the importance and value associated with higher education, we’ll not only have made a positive impact on their lives, but also on the lives of their family members and community,” said John Rasmussen, head of Wells Fargo’s Personal Lending Group. “Through this unique collaboration with “First Generation” film on the Go College! Now initiative, we hope to make the prospects of achieving higher education a reality for students across the country.”

Prior to the launch of Go College! Now, Wells Fargo and the Fendersons partnered for the Go College! tour, which included 70 screenings of “First Generation” across 10 cities in 2014 to share the stories of the four students featured in the film and raise awareness of the options for underserved student populations. Building on the tour, Go College! Now established a new online platform where educators, families and supporters can access the film; download resources to assist students in their understanding of admissions requirements, financial aid and scholarship options; learn about college admissions tests such as the SAT and ACT; receive career guidance; and also take the pledge to promote college access for all students.

“Being a first generation student is not a curse; it is a blessing and great responsibility,” said Lopez, cast member and first-generation college student. “Please watch the film, because you are not alone. Take the pledge and get the resources available for you.”

Since being featured in “First Generation”, Lopez has gone on to complete her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from California State University, Bakersfield, and graduated in June 2015 with a master’s degree in homeland security and counter terrorism from San Diego State University. She is now in the process of applying to law school. Her cast mate, Gray, graduated this spring from Sacramento State University with a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer science with a concentration in apparel marketing and design, after completing an internship with Guess Jeans. They both continue to be strong supporters of creating a college-going culture among first-generation and low-income students.

For more information on Go College! Now, to download resources or to see who has taken the pledge to support college access and success, visit www.gocollegenow.org.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione

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