Costa Mesa's Westside. Tutoring is also provided.
The two founders of the student-devised and student-run center
received guidance themselves from their alliance with UC Irvine's
Community Outreach Partnership Center.
"This is especially valuable since, often, the younger folks are
given a bad knock for being self-indulgent and self-centered," said
Victor Becerra, director of the UCI center. "This project represents
the true meaning of community service and student leadership."
Michelle Burgner and fellow Corona del Mar senior Jessica Harkins
hatched the idea for the center, which they dubbed the Westside
Project, last spring as they were contemplating filling out their own
"I know how much of a maze the [college application] process is
and all the steps you have to go through," said Burgner, 17, who is
applying to six colleges. "My college counselor is amazing. I hope we
can provide the same level of support."
After hearing about their idea, their school guidance counselor
recommended contacting UCI, and a partnership was born. UCI's center
provided the room for the Westside Project in the back of the Harbor
Christian Fellowship Church.
Burgner and Harkins then started contacting colleges around the
country, asking them to send promotional material. The center is
decorated with banners and posters from schools like Pepperdine,
Connecticut College and the University of California system.
Brochures in Spanish titled "Taking the Reins of Your Future" line
the tables, and a bookcase boasts a wealth of guides to various
facets of the college application process.
Students from Corona del Mar also donated their old SAT
preparation material, and the high school donated tables.
The Westside Project officially opened the last week of September.
While the project originally targeted students from Costa Mesa and
Estancia high schools, it serves all students in the district.
While it was slow at first, eventually students began trickling
in, and things grew busy, Burgner said. But visits to the center have
tapered off since Thanksgiving break, Burgner lamented.
Becerra attributes the drop to the cycle of college applications.