Clark County Commissioners Lawrence Weekly, at front in blue, and Chris Giunchigliani, at front in orange, spend time July 9 with about 80 students in the student union at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The students participated in the third annual CampUs Las Vegas program, sponsored by After-School All-Stars Las Vegas. The six-day program encouraged incoming high school freshmen to stay in school and go to college.
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For ninth-grader Cristian Lopez, visiting the University of Nevada, Las Vegas was like a whole other world.
At 14, Lopez said he was used to being attacked in the street for no reason while walking to school.
He was sitting in the second floor of the student union, staring out over the quad filled with green grass and trees a departure from his familiar landscape of dirt and rocks.
Here, its just peaceful, Lopez said. And thats how I think the whole world should be.
It was Lopezs first time on a college campus, just as it was for most of the 80 students who participated in the After-School All-Stars Las Vegas third annual CampUs Las Vegas program.
The group serves about 6,000 at-risk youths in 15 elementary and middle schools in the valley by providing constructive after-school activities.
The students mostly incoming high school freshmen spent July 8-13 living in UNLV dorms and participating in workshops to prepare them for high school. Activities included listening to guest speakers, team building, filling out mock college applications, writing personal essays, learning to apply for financial aid and more.
The majority of students who drop out of high school do so during the first two years, according to All-Stars associate director Ranna Daud. For that reason, it is important to reach these students before they start, she said.
Students were selected by their counselors at six middle schools including Bridger, Brinley, Smith, Orr, Garside and Cashman. The camp was free for students and funded through a grant from Windsong Trust.
During their second day, campers heard from Clark County commissioners Lawrence Weekly and Chris Giunchigliani.
Giunchigliani admitted to students she never planned on going to college but was thankful she did. She started working at 14 as a clerk and later as a maid, dishwasher, cook and waitress.
I just wanted to get out of (high school) as fast as possible, Giunchigliani said.
She attended a community college and was the first in her family to graduate. She moved to Las Vegas 36 years ago and became a special education teacher, working in the Clark County School District for 29 years.
Weekly stressed to students the importance of staying in school and graduating. Dropping out should not be in their minds, he said.
To any of you considering dropping out, youre in for a world of trouble, he said.
Weekly also told the campers to be real grateful for the All-Stars counselors and staff members who put on the program every year.
A lot of your peers dont have anyone who cares about them, Weekly said.
That sentiment was not lost on 14-year-old Esmeralda Curiel, who decided she is going to be the second in her family to graduate from high school and the first to graduate from college.
Its great to be able to know we have people who believe in us, she said. They showed us the importance of graduating high school and going to college.
Curiel wants to graduate for her grandfather, who never made it past elementary school, she said.
I just want him to be able to say, Thats my granddaughter, she said. He is my drive to want to be more.
Students also had plenty of time for fun through the week. They visited the recreation center every day to swim or play sports. They also got to perform improv with the Jest Serendipity comedy group and do other nightly activities.
Like Lopez and Curiel, 14-year-old Saul Campbell plans to attend Clark High School, 4291 W. Pennwood Ave. He said this program has definitely shown us the right way to go.
This is my first time on a college campus, Campbell said. Its definitely not going to be the last.
Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5524.