East Oakland high school leads way in preparing students for college

Confetti and cheers filled Oakland Unity High's auditorium on Friday, in honor of more than 75 seniors heading to college this fall.

Many of the students are proud to be heading to universities right here in California, while some are ready for the adventure that awaits at colleges out of state. This year, 97% of Oakland Unity's college-bound students are the first in their family to head to college.

"I'm first generation myself…I think being an example for younger family members is really motivating on my journey for higher education," Mariela Jimenez, Oakland Unity High Valedictorian, told KTVU.  

Challenges that first-generation students face can sometimes stop the college application process altogether. From financial aid forms to college interviews, the process can be overwhelming, but the results can be life-changing.

Students at Oakland Unity tell us their support system made all the difference.

"The process was a little long and tedious... there was some information i just couldn't get or didn't know... i had to talk to my counselor to make meetings to get it done," said Zion Harris, a graduating senior at Oakland Unity. 

Oakland Unity touts a unique success in the city—94% of the schools graduating seniors are considered "college ready" by academic standards. 

In Oakland, only 50% of Black and Brown seniors who graduate are considered college ready. Families in Action for Quality Education, a non-profit that serves students in Oakland, tells us they want to see that expectation change:

"The team here at Oakland Unity, they believe anything is possible for the kids here...Kids come here wtih a supportive team and staff that really thinks of them as family," Kimi Kean, CEO of Families in Action for Quality Education told KTVU.