East Palo Alto school prepares kids who are first in their families to go to college

A private school in East Palo alto, funded entirely by donors, is helping students become the first in their families to attend college.

When you step into a classroom at Eastside College Prep, it feels more like college than high school.Teachers are on a first-name basis with the 280 students.

The school, founded in 1996 by two Stanford grads, is 65 percent Latino, with students coming from cities including East Palo Alto, Redwood City and beyond.

17-year-old Josh Walker-Ford from Oakland hopes to be the first in his family to go straight from high school to college. He joins about a third of the student body who lives on campus in the school dorms Monday through Friday.

"At home, I don't necessarily have that concrete structure where at this time I do homework, at this time I have free time if i finish my homework," he said.

"hat i like most about eastside is the support i get-we have the computer lab open from 5 until 10 at night," said Leslie Ortega.

The school day runs eight in the morning until five at night, with three hours of tutorial time, and even time for mental health.

"We started a meditation program where we meditate before every tutorial. That's when we do homework we meditate in the beginning to soothe our mind and soul" said Walker. 

The retention rate for high school students here in East Palo Alto is less than 50%. Eastside says it has an 85% retention rate, and every student who graduates goes to college.

Advanced Placement courses are built in to the curriculum, as are individual college and career coaches who even advise alumni during college after they graduate.