Making Dreams a Reality

Six Malibu High School students are raising funds for a trip to Seattle to learn about college. Pictured, from left, back row: Jeffrey Navarro, Isabella Alvarez and Ariana Farrahi; front row: Tania Moran, Brianna Galeas and Shelsy Ortiz

When Malibu High School (MHS) announces each June where its senior class will be matriculating, it seems as if just about every graduating student will be going to college. MHS has a strong reputation for sending students off to Ivy League and other prestigious colleges and universities around the country and even abroad.

While some MHS students have the advantage of college tutors, prep courses and campus visits to find out which college or university will best fit, these luxuries are not an option for everyone.

The Boys & Girls Club of Malibu (BGCM) is trying to make college a reality for six students who will be the first (or one of the first) in their family to ever go to college. The students, some of whom commute from Los Angeles and Oxnard, were selected from several applicants to go on a college visit tour. The six MHS juniors will travel to Seattle during Spring Break to learn about the out-of-state college experience. 

The students were chosen because of their academic achievement, drive and sincere desire to attend college. While the students have been able to visit colleges locally around Los Angeles, the Seattle trip will be their only opportunity to visit schools outside of California. This once-in-a-lifetime trip for the students is also only possible with the support of the BGCM, donations and fundraising.  

The students sold Valentine’s Day candy and hosted bake sales in order to help cover the $7,500 needed for airfare, hotel and car rental. Their latest effort brought a little Central American culture to Malibu with the sale of pupusas. Pupusas are a dish from El Salvador — grilled thick corn tortillas stuffed with beans and cheese, pork, or spinach and cheese, then topped with a slaw of pickled cabbage. A group of hard-working parents and students made the pupusas on site at the BGCM on Feb. 19, filling roughly 400 orders to help fund the trip.

After researching several schools, the students decided to travel to the Pacific Northwest where they will visit the University of Washington, University of Puget Sound and Seattle University. The schools vary in size and atmosphere, from a large public university to a small, private liberal arts college. The MHS students will go on campus tours, visit dorms and even sit in on some classes.

Brenna Buckstaff, a college access program developer volunteering for the BGCM through AmeriCorps Vista, shared some information about the trip with The Malibu Times.

“The idea is to allow students enough on-campus experience to identify the characteristics they like in a university, which will help them in their college searches and applications next fall,” Buckstaff said.

Jeffrey Navarro, who was chosen to go on the trip, commutes two hours each way daily to get to MHS. He said he wants to attend college in Seattle at Puget Sound and study architecture and engineering. Isabella Alvarez shared that she wants to be a doctor and said that when she gets to college, she will major in biology as a pre-med student.

Ariana Farrahi said she would like to work as an editor for a fashion or design magazine. Tania Moran said she is hoping to study engineering and finance. Brianna Galeas, who won a 2015 Malibu Times Dolphin Award, said she wants to become a lawyer. Shelsy Ortiz shared she is interested in majoring in art,with a focus on painting and drawing.

The students told The Malibu Times that they are very excited to see an out-of-state college and become first-generation college-bound students.

Paying for college will be another hurdle for these students, but according to Buckstaff, the kids are preparing by “keeping their grades up to try for merit scholarships,” adding, “they are all very involved in community service.” 

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