Nearly 75 students from three California high schools are visiting UCSB this week as part of a Hermanas Unidas program to motivate students to pursue a university education.

The fifth annual Making Educational Networks That Open Roads program brings high school students to UCSB free of charge for three days to attend workshops and discussions about making college an attainable goal, HaU member and fifth-year psychology major Sommer Urias said.

The students come from Bassett High School in La Puente, Birmingham High School in Van Nuys and Watsonville High School in Watsonville. Until this Friday, the visiting students will be staying with current UCSB students living in San Miguel Residence Hall.

Most of the students are high school sophomores and juniors who might not meet University of California standards, Urias said.

“We target sophomores and juniors, but we do have some seniors and some freshmen,” she said. “We take the students who don’t have the highest [grade point averages] … [or] aren’t the most involved.”

Urias said the program was inspired by a research paper of a UCSB student who was in HaU, written about five years ago, regarding students at disadvantaged high schools. Along with her professor, the former student researched high school dropout rates in Fresno, Calif. Her research led members of HaU to conclude that getting high school students excited about college would inspire them to work harder and not drop out of school.

Urias said several of the high school students in M.E.N.T.O.R. are at a disadvantage because their high schools lack funding.

“A lot of these schools are overpopulated and have low counselor-to-student ratios,” she said. “Many [members of] Hermanas Unidas come from these schools. This is our way of going back into our community.”

In order to enter the M.E.N.T.O.R. program, Urias said, applicants had to submit essays in response to questions regarding their qualifications for the program.

HaU outreach coordinator and fourth-year black studies major Janet Sevilla said the program costs approximately $13,000.

This expense is covered through grants and HaU fundraisers, HaU co-chair and fourth-year Chicano studies and law & society major Monique Moncayo said.

“This program is made possible both through fundraising and the Student-Initiated Outreach Program grant from [the Office of Student Life],” Moncayo said. “Especially now with budget cuts, we get less funding each year. These programs are needed.”

Moncayo said the M.E.N.T.O.R. workshops educate students on college-related issues, such as financial aid and greek life. She said the program provides “resources that normally get offered” to students who are already college-bound.

“We’re having a student panel where students will be sharing their experiences, especially as minorities,” she said.

Besides staying overnight in San Miguel Hall, the high school students will follow HaU members to their classes, listen to speakers and eat in the dining commons, Moncayo said.

“We’re trying to give them a view of college,” Moncayo said. “Yes, it is educational, but it is also a blast.”

She said the program is highly regarded.

“We’ve received awards the last two years from the Office of Student Life, [organization] awards for the most creative programs,” Urias said. “Every year it gets bigger and better.”