Southern California teens attending the HerStory Summit – a weeklong college prep and personal development program – at UCI demonstrate the Anteater hand sign. Courtesy of Global G.L.O.W.

Fifty girls from Santa Ana, Long Beach, Compton and Los Angeles were treated to an immersive college experience at UCI this summer, thanks to a new partnership between the university and a local nonprofit.

Most of the teens would be the first in their families to attend college, and they took an important step toward that objective by participating in the HerStory Summit, organized by UCI’s Center for Educational Partnerships and Santa Ana’s Global G.L.O.W., which stands for Girls Leading Our World.

“The goal of the July summit was to bring motivated eighth- and ninth-graders to campus to not only learn what it’s like to go to college but see it as a real possibility they envision for themselves,” says Karina Hamilton, a program director at UCI.

For five days, the girls slept in dorms and participated in a variety of storytelling, writing and college preparatory workshops. Highlights included a networking lunch with professional women; science, technology, engineering and math activities; and literacy and art projects.

“This week has helped me gain a better understanding of how college works,” says Chelsey Lopez, 13, of Long Beach. “I learned that I have to start working now and thinking about the future as well as the present.”

The program reflects UCI’s commitment to providing a world-class education to every qualified student. This spring, a record 54 percent of bachelor’s degrees were awarded to first-generation graduates. In May, UCI earned Hispanic-serving institution status for 2017-18, meaning that fully one-quarter of undergraduates identify as Latino and that half of all students receive financial aid.

“At UCI, we have a desire to create global leaders starting at a very young age,” says Stephanie Reyes-Tuccio, executive director of UCI’s Center for Educational Partnerships. “We believe that everything is better in collaboration with the community, schools and industry partners. It takes all of us to help students succeed.”