More than 350 students from Westchester High School participated in a college awareness program at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) Monday and Tuesday, March 21st and 22nd.

Designed to spark interest from high school juniors and encourage them to pursue a college education, this inaugural program was created in partnership with Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

According to Westchester High School statistics, approximately 35 percent of students either drop out of high school before graduation or don’t pursue further education.

Less than 55 percent of students enroll in either a two-year or four-year college program and another ten percent enroll in technical or trade schools.

“Our remaining students don’t apply to college because of lack of credits, awareness, or motivation,” said Dechele Byrd, an assistant principal at Westchester High and a 1994 alumna of LMU.

The two-day event included presentations by LMU administrators about financial aid and the admissions process, first-year programs, tours of the campus, and a chance for Westchester High students to meet and talk with LMU faculty and current students.

“You have to be able to speak, write, critically think, and analyze,” said Charles Mason, LMU assistant director of admissions.

Mason spoke about moving past the negative stereotypes associated with being minority students and acquiring the right tools to make a successful living in society.

Rodney Tention, head coach of the LMU men’s basketball team, spoke about the importance of academics for athletes.

“Coaching to me is just an extension of the classroom,” said Tention.

He said his basketball players, like all NCAA players, are required to spend a minimum of eight hours a week of study time.

Tention said that LMU athletes are expected to maintain a certain GPA (grade point average) level to continue to play their respective sports.

After receiving a tour of the campus, aspiring graphic design student Brandi Wright said that LMU is “really clean and it seems like there are a lot of opportunities for me.”

Potential animation major Christian Phillips said the two-day program “makes me want to go to LMU.”