Spotlight on Ukiah’s leadership team
Ten years ago, Partnership Scholars Program welcomed a small cohort of students to be the inaugural group in its second northern California location, in Ukiah. A small town about 60 miles inland from Mendocino, Ukiah is the seat of Mendocino County with a high population of low-income, minority families. With the help of the Ukiah Unified School District, PSP began working with five mentors and five students. One of those mentors included retired Mendocino College professor Jean Lincoln. In her first few years as a mentor, Jean worked closely with the program coordinator in Fort Bragg, until it became apparent that Ukiah needed to form its own leadership team. “I saw a lot of potential with the program, but it wasn’t clear where we were going,” says Jean. “We didn’t have a strong identity here in Ukiah. I wanted to have that.”
A few years later, Jean invited a friend of hers, Penny Walker, to become a mentor with PSP as well. Penny had recently retired and was a former instructor at Mendocino College. She saw a need to support students who would otherwise not be college-bound. “I realized that the students needed more support with their college applications and SATs and I wanted to be of better support in that way,” says Penny “Our local high school wasn’t doing anything about SAT prep, and I wasn’t really thrilled with what was available to the kids. I started worrying about their ability to handle applying to private schools.”
After two years of mentoring, Penny stepped up to be a regional coordinator along-side Jean. “At that time, one of the original coordinators backed out and it seemed like there was a hole, so I took that opportunity to fill it,” says Penny. A couple years later, Jill Krueger joined the team and the three have been leading the Ukiah cohort for the last four years together. As one of the original members of the leadership team, Jean has definitely seen the most change take place within the program in Ukiah. “As the program has evolved it’s become more obvious that mentors and students need a lot of support.” One of her most central roles as a regional coordinator is communicating with the Ukiah mentors frequently, helping clarify policy for them. Over the seven years she’s been a mentor, Penny has been happy to see what she describes as a programmatic shift in the evolving college access services PSP provides students. “We’re getting more support around college prep with the college access retreat and resources on the web,” says Penny. “Everyone is much more on top of college prep.”
The three coordinators see an unwavering need for the program’s growth in Ukiah, as the reputation of PSP continues to permeate the community. “There is a large population in Ukiah of very low income and Hispanic families,” says Penny. “There are lots of family members that haven’t gone to college or only to the junior college. I wish we could expand the program a lot more; the program makes such an impact on the community.” Jean shares this sentiment, pointing out that due to the size of the community, the direct impact PSP has on Ukiah is truly felt. “Because we’re a small community, if several kids have the opportunity, it spreads to their siblings, to their community – the influence of preparing for college and having that as your goal is spreading,” says Jean.