The Milpitas Promise opens doors

When Frank Valdez was a sophomore at Milpitas High School, his counselor told him that there was no way he could graduate on time — unless he took independent study or extra classes.

This wasn’t something Frank wanted to hear. At the time, he didn’t really care too much about school. He was skipping classes a lot, and his report cards were filled with Fs.

“It just all caught up to me,” said Frank. “I just didn’t want to do any of it.”

Finally, during his junior year, in 2018, Frank knew he had to start getting serious. After learning about the opportunities that the Milpitas Extension provided, Frank got motivated. He knew this was the path ahead for him, his shot at correcting course.

“I had to get approval to take all the classes at the Extension, but the high school said ‘no’ because of all the Fs I had,” said Frank. “The college had given me approval, but the high school didn’t.”

So Frank had no choice but to be persistent. Every day (sometimes multiple times a day), Frank approached MHS Principal Francis Rojas’ receptionist to see if there was any way he’d reconsider signing off on the courses.

Eventually, the principal gave him permission, but it was only for just one course.

For Frank, that was a start. He began taking a General Psychology course at the College Extension — and just about fell in love.

"I took my first class and it was a lot better than high school,” said Frank. "It felt like the teacher wasn’t on you; like it was actually on you to do what you want. I felt more responsible.”

From there, the principal approved more classes, and Frank was on his way, studying subjects like Statistics and Sign Language. He also studied at the Extension over the summer, and took three Extension courses each semester of his senior year.

The extra credits Frank earned from the Extension got him all caught up, and he ended up graduating high school in 2019.

Now, Frank takes classes at San Jose City College, getting in all of his prerequisites for a Nursing degree.

“San Jose City College is really nice,” said Frank. “And the teachers are cool.”

Frank’s successful trajectory toward high school graduation and beyond would not have been possible if not for the Milpitas Promise.

Modeled after the San Jose Promise, the Milpitas Promise is a way of removing barriers and creating pathways toward student success.

It’s based on the idea that all students in our community should have opportunities to obtain a college degree and create success in their education and lives, and revolves around three core components: College Readiness Programs, College Promise Scholarships, and College Pathways Partnerships.

Through the Milpitas Promise, students receive tuition, textbooks, and student support services for free. All fees are also waived. The doors that open as a result of this opportunity are plentiful.

Rosalie Ledesma, Executive Director of Government & External Affairs, announced at a joint meeting between Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) and the Evergreen Community College District that the program was offering spots to Milpitas High School and Calaveras Hills High School students. Earlier this year, on January 2, the college received a $250,000 check from the eBay Foundation, which will go toward the Promise program.

For Frank, the SJCC Milpitas Extension has served as a catalyst, driving him toward a better future, which he would’ve never thought was possible back when he was a sophomore in high school.

“I recommend the Extension,” said Frank. "You start off college before anybody else. You’re getting credits you need, and you’re getting college credits for free.”