News & Information

Sac State helps close the achievement gap


Students at Sacramento High School attend a presentation for Project LEAD.
Sacramento State prides itself on providing quality higher education at great value. One new initiative promises to open the University’s doors to even more underrepresented demographics.

Project LEAD (Leadership, Excellence, Achievement and Determination) targets low-income ninth-graders who show potential to be first-generation college graduates. Funded by a $10,000 grant from Closing the Gap, the project focuses on four Sacramento urban high schools: Sacramento Charter, Hiram Johnson, Grant Union and John F. Kennedy.

Closing the Gap is a nonprofit dedicated to narrowing the achievement gap in schools “by supporting local organizations that provide tutoring, college counseling, career guidance and real-world experience to students from the eighth grade level up,” according to its website. “Closing the Gap increases students’ academic performance in preparation for college, a successful career and a bright future.”

“We are very pleased to offer this outreach program to students from Grant, Kennedy, Hiram Johnson and Sac High,” Vice President for Student Affairs Lori Varlotta says. “Sacramento State’s partnership with these high schools allows us to help local students imagine themselves at Sac State.”

Project LEAD aspires to increase the number of underrepresented minorities enrolled at the University. “This whole thing is early intervention,” says Jasmine Murphy, a Sac State admission counselor who with Varlotta submitted the grant request. “If they stick with this program and do well in their studies, current high school freshmen are guaranteed a spot at Sac State when they graduate in 2014.”

Through Project LEAD, ninth-graders can gain access to the Hornet VIP page for personalized, pre-enrollment information that is tailored to their interests, such as clubs and other extracurricular activities.
Much of the project’s outreach work has been done at Sacramento Charter because the other three schools are part of the Criminal Justice magnet program, which also is a CTG recipient. Sacramento Charter has hosted monthly workshops on the program since December, Murphy says, although there have been assemblies at Johnson and Kennedy to welcome students to the program and give them an overview.

It all culminates Saturday, May 21, when Project LEAD invites students and parents from all four campuses to Sacramento State for workshops, including:

• Family Dynamics and Positive Communications – Minimizing the Drama
• Helping Your Teen Succeed Academically
• Major and Career Exploration
• Health and Wellness
• Connecting High School and College (Admissions and Financial Aid Basics)

Sacramento State Professor Kimo Ah-Yun, chair of the Department of Communication Studies, will be the keynote speaker. Lunch is included, and the health and wellness workshop at The WELL will include rock-wall climbing, dodgeball, zumba and other activities.

“We use events like this one to get students excited about completing the necessary high school classes and participating in the types of activities that will position them for college admission and graduation,” Varlotta says.

For more about Closing the Gap, visit their website at For media assistance, contact Public Affairs at (916) 278-6156.