Ever since East Palo Alto's only high school closed in 1976, students had been bused to high schools in neighboring, more affluent towns. Through the placement process, these students were assigned to non-college track classes. The results were dramatic: students from East Palo Alto dropped out of high school at the rate of 65 percent. Of the 35 percent who did graduate, less than 10 percent enrolled in four-year colleges.
As a Stanford undergraduate, Chris Bischof had started an after-school program for East Palo Alto elementary school students that linked participation in basketball with daily tutoring. But Shoot for the Stars, as the program was called, could only take these students so far.
Chris began to explore the feasibility of bringing a high school back to the East Palo Alto community. In 1996, Chris and fellow Stanford graduate Helen Kim welcomed eight ninth grade students to Eastside College Preparatory School. They met first at a picnic table in an East Palo Alto park. Soon they moved to a room at Plugged In, a computer learning center, then camped out in an unused room at Families in Transition.
When a donor offered a 1.6-acre lot at Pulgas Avenue and Myrtle Street, real estate developer and Eastside board member Don Vermeil donated the time and labor to put up a modular building. Board member Lynn Winkle volunteered full-time as a classroom aide and reading tutor to augment the small teaching staff. Soon the school had grown to 20 ninth and tenth grade students. The next year Eastside enrolled 35 students, the following year 70. In 1999, the Middle School opened.
Our approach, requiring extraordinary dedication from both students and faculty, is geared toward the admission of every Eastside graduate to a four-year college or university. To date, we have met that goal with 100 percent success. Every Eastside graduate has gone on to a four-year college, including Stanford University, Santa Clara University, Pomona College, University of Pennsylvania, Tufts University, Princeton University, U.C. Berkeley, Columbia University, Amherst College, Yale University and Harvard University.
Eighty percent of our alumni are either in a four-year college or have graduated, in comparison with a sobering nationwide statistic indicating just 11% of first generation college students graduates from college.