Thomas Parham
"Do not be afraid to reach for what's just beyond your grasp," UCI Vice Chancellor Thomas Parham told about 100 students in the Manuel Dominguez High School library. Steve Zylius / UC Irvine

A UC Irvine education is within reach, and all dedicated students interested in changing the world are welcome. That was the message delivered Thursday, Oct. 30, by Thomas Parham, UCI vice chancellor of student affairs, at Manuel Dominguez High School in Compton.

The outreach was part of a University of California systemwide event called Achieve UC that aims to inspire students from low-income communities to see themselves as college material – and to pair that aspirational message with practical support in realizing their educational ambitions.

The effort, now in its third year, has helped increase the number of students applying to UC campuses by as much as 30 percent at participating high schools.

Parham warmed the Dominguez assembly with a rousing talk about motivation and purpose. “There’s no shame in not reaching a goal,” he said, “only shame in not having a goal to reach for.”

The vice chancellor was joined by Tyrone Howard, UCI alumnus and professor of education at UCLA. “What you are about to do in the next six months,” he told the teens, “will have a huge impact on your life for the next six decades.”

They and other UC leaders Thursday reached about 30,000 California students in schools with lower-than-average college-going rates. University advisers were on hand to explain application processes and make students aware of scholarship and financial aid options. UCI’s part in Achieve UC was organized by staff at the Early Academic Outreach Program under the auspices of the Center for Educational Partnerships,

More than half of UC undergraduates who are California residents pay no tuition, thanks to the UC’s Blue & Gold Opportunity Plan – which covers costs for students whose families earn $80,000 a year or less – and other assistance.

“If there’s one message we want students to hear, it’s this: If you study hard, there’s a place for you at the University of California,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “A UC education isn’t only doable, it’s affordable.”