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San Jose School Overcomes Odds, Low-Income Neighborhood To Send Graduates To 4-Year Colleges

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San Jose Overfelt High School seniors pose with their college T-shirts, May 28, 2014. CBS)

San Jose Overfelt High School seniors pose with their college T-shirts, May 28, 2014. (CBS)

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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — A high school in San Jose which serves one of the lowest-income neighborhoods in the city is sending a record number of seniors to college; on Wednesday, the principal recognized them with T-shirts of the schools they are attending.

Principal Vito Chiala says he is not surprised his students are heading off to some of the best colleges in the country.

Out of a class of 240, 150 have been accepted to four-year universities including Ivy League schools Harvard and Brown along with a host of UC and CSU schools.

Graduating senior Ruby Navarro said she did surprise a lot of people and it was not easy when she was accepted to CSU Monterey Bay in the fall. “Not easy at all because I went from bad kid to good kid and that was a tough trail to follow.”

Chiala said it is Overfelt’s most successful class in at least a decade and it hasn’t been easy for any of them. 92 percent of the student body meets federal poverty standards.

But it didn’t stop their dreams. Graduating senior Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t speak or read English nor read Spanish when he arrived from Mexico at age 7. Gonzalez is now class valedictorian and will attend Harvard in the fall.

“One of the biggest challenges is you don’t get very much parent involvement,” said Chiala. “It’s not like they don’t want to help, it’s just that they both work all the time and then sometimes there’s a language barrier, too.”

Chiala bought each student a T-shirt from the college where they have been accepted. It’s a new tradition to wear them on the last day of school and the symbolism is loud and clear to younger students.

“These students will be role models for the students coming up,” said Chiala. “They’ll see them in their shirts, they’ll know it’s possible for them to go on to college themselves.”

Overfelt junior Brian gaulberto agreed. “It shows how much potential the school has because everyone looks down at the school,” said Gaulberto. “It’s great to see kids going to Harvard, Brown, UCLA. It’s here.”

Overfelt says its Class of 2014 has five 4.0 GPA valedictorians.

 

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