MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- 1,300 - that's how many students of color UC Merced and Stanislaus State are committed to seeing in the classroom.
"It means a lot to me, personally, as someone who grew up on the free lunch program and public assistance," says State Superintendent Tony Thurmond. "We didn't always have enough food and I lost my only parent to cancer when I was 6."
Thurmond knows all too well the challenges many students face. He was in attendance to show his support.
"We know so many of our students are food insecure and homeless," he said. "There's so many barriers, not to mention the impacts of racism and hate, but we know there are people trying to succeed. We just need to provide them the resources."
Leaders from both colleges have played a key role in making the 1300 campaign possible.
"Only about 16 percent of residents in Central California achieve a bachelor's degree or higher, so we really want to focus our efforts on getting more students getting their degrees," says Stanislaus State President Ellen Junn.
The initiative will target underperforming high schools in the North Valley and Sacramento County, working to reach young men of color.
"To help those students get mentoring, to help these students understand the courses they need to take to be eligible for a college degree," Junn said.
"Any time a university can serve for good, change and prosperity, it's a wonderful day," says UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz.
They'll be choosing 25 students this summer to come stay at the colleges for one week.
They'll have a chance to live on campus, experience both UC Merced and Stanislaus State and get a sample of the college experience.