MERCED, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – UC Merced and Stanislaus State University are joining forces to expand the “1,300 Campaign”.

It’s an initiative aimed at sending an additional 1,300 young men of color to the UC and CSU systems by 2030.

“The 1,300 Campaign has staff that will be working directly with our participating high schools to help those students get mentoring, to help them understand what kind of courses they need to take to be eligible to apply for a college degree,” said Ellen Junn, Stanislaus State President.

At UC Merced and Stanislaus State, about 70% of students are first-generation college students.

“Houses of modest means but not modest ambitions,” said Juan Sanchez Munoz, UC Merced Chancellor.

“As someone who grew up on the free lunch program, on public assistance, we didn’t always have food in the household. You know, I lost my only parent to cancer when I was 6 years old, raised by my cousin who I didn’t know until I showed up on her doorstep, education’s been everything,” said Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Thurmond says just as he had mentors help him find a pathway, he’s hoping this program can open doors for students of color.

“We’ve actually been working on programs that help to build the pipeline of male educators of color in our state. So this falls directly in line with the work that we’ve been doing,” he explained.

“This is especially important here in the Central Valley because many people don’t realize that only about 16-18% of residents living in Central California ever achieve a bachelor’s or higher,” said Junn.

The program will target high schools in the Northern Central Valley which are underperforming, regarding the state averages for graduation rates, A-G completion rates college-going rates, four-year college-going rates, expulsion, suspension, and free or reduced lunch.

“Anytime a university can serve as a catalyst for good and change and prosperity, it’s a wonderful day,” said Munoz. 

A cohort of 25-30 students can join as soon as this summer. 

“And the summer academy is one week, probably 3 days here at UC Merced and then 2 days at Stanislaus. And so they’ll actually get to live and come to campus, work in some of our laboratories,” said Junn.