Campus Outreach Program: $3 million.

Cost of a college education in 10 years: $60,000 per year.

Being inspired at the age of seven to achieve your dreams: priceless.

Just try explaining that to Adam Pinson. In “Don’t Waste Outreach Dollars on Kiddies Who Don’t Know Better” (Daily Nexus, May 21), Pinson complains about the monetary requests from the campus outreach program specifically because it allows elementary and junior high school children to participate. Pinson writes, “I see little kids who stand a little above my knees, who probably barely know their ABCs, taking a tour of UCSB, and campus outreach is complaining about budget cuts?”

Pinson’s argument is that campus outreach’s funding of young children to take tours of UCSB and gain a deeper understanding of what college life is all about and then asking the state to help defray the costs is akin to asking the university to install an 18-hole golf course on campus. This stance clearly misses the cut in the tournament of life. The campus links would benefit only a select few, whereas the campus outreach program reaches many prospective students, especially minorities, who maybe would not have considered the UC as a viable educational option. As a mom and as a minority female, I was offended by his condescending attitude toward children. Little Johnny is just as important as Big Johnny.

Statistically speaking, in 2004, the University of California admitted 16,156 whites and 17,169 Asians to its entering freshman class, as opposed to 1,469 blacks, 7,699 Latinos and 256 American Indians. According to the official UC website, the purpose of the UC Outreach Program is to provide student-centered programs that provide tutoring, mentoring, academic preparation, college counseling and other services directly to K-12 students. The website also reports that participants in UC outreach programs now account for 30 percent of black and 33 percent of Latino UC freshman admits.

However, it does not state at what age these students began to take part in outreach activities, and I ask, does it even matter? If Beethoven can give his first concert at age 7, Tiger Woods can shoot a 48 for nine holes at age 3 and Sho Yano can begin medical school at age 12, then why can’t an elementary school child take a tour of UCSB and aspire to go to college? Or are dreams and ambitions reserved for a privileged few in this country? Tell me, at what age is it acceptable for a child to dream of becoming an archaeologist, a doctor or president of the United States? The campus outreach program is not about wasting dollars on kiddies who don’t know better. It’s about inspiring and motivating children to be all they can be, regardless of age.

Pinson writes that he didn’t think about college until his freshman year of high school. Well, that may be too late for many minority children, especially those who live in the inner city where poverty, drugs and gangs are neighborhood amenities. Sometimes the only way to escape the ills associated with urban life is to run toward a dream. Many of these children will grow up to become first-generation college graduates, all because a trip to UCSB made them believe that they could.

I believe that the UC campus outreach program provides kids of various ages and backgrounds the lens through which to see what life can offer if they go to college. What Pinson and others who agree with his viewpoint need to understand is that it is never too late to start believing in yourself and realizing your options for the future.

And Gauchos, have no fear. My 7-year-old son will not be touring UCSB and high-fiving you on your way to class. He wants to go to Stanford.

Jacqueline Whalen is a senior religious studies major.