WATSONVILLE—Watsonville High School graduate Kayla Cabrera will be attending virtual classes at UC Berkeley when the fall semester begins on Oct. 1, where she will double major in legal and ethnic studies for a pre-law track.
Inspired by social justice issues she encountered while growing up, and buoyed by her experience with mock trial, Cabrera hopes to return to her hometown with a law degree.
“I think it would be amazing to go to law school and give back to this community,” she said. “I really like the law and I think being an attorney would be interesting.”
Citlaly Felix, also a WHS graduate, will study biology at UC Davis, and plans eventually to become a doctor. She will be the first in her family to graduate school and to attend college.
She says her parents are worried about the cost, but that they simply want her to go.
Felix and Cabrera are among 28,662 Latinx people who will be attending schools in the UC system in the fall, which is a record number.
For the first time in its history, the University of California system has admitted more Latinx students for the upcoming fall semester than any other group, according to a study released June 23 by the UC Office of the President.
The number is compared to 27,771 Asian American people, and 16,438 white people. In all, a record 80,000 freshmen will be attending the system’s nine campuses.
Former Watsonville Mayor and State Assemblyman Luis Alejo, who currently sits on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, said the UC system has made “great strides” and progress toward allowing more Latinx and other students of color.
“After Proposition 209 that eliminated affirmative action in 1996, we witnessed significant declines and over two decades later, we are finally seeing a rebound,” he said. “This is a good signal for the future of California and our economy. But with nearly 76% of students in California public schools being children of color. It only makes sense to now see that reflected in UC admission rates.”
UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement that UC continues to see increased admissions of underrepresented students.
“The incoming class will be one of our most talented and diverse yet, and UC is proud to invite them to join us,” she said.
UC Santa Cruz announced on July 16 that it has this year significantly increased the number of students admitted from low-income families, underrepresented groups, and those who will be the first in their family to earn a four-year degree.
The data also shows that the UC system has admitted more than 12,000 first-generation college students.
Like other University of California campuses, UC Santa Cruz is planning to offer most of its fall courses through remote instruction, with a small number of in-person learning opportunities when fall classes start.
While Cabrera said she is happy about the news of the high numbers of Latinx students admitted to UC schools, she worries that many will be thrust into a world without the academic support structures they need to succeed.
“It doesn’t mean much for these students to be admitted if they aren’t going to provide the resources for them to succeed,” she said.