Nonprofit’s “Path-to-College” Leads the Way to Higher Education

College Student Alma Perez and her daughters at Sunday Friends: (l-r) Emely, Naomi, Alma and Stephanie. Photo Credit: Sunday Friends

Low-Income Students Enrolled at Community Colleges, State Universities, Harvard, Cal Poly, UCLA

San Jose, Calif. – Sunday Friends, “The Working Alternative to Charity” (, is seeing increasing numbers of the very low income students it serves off to college. Thanks to its programming for families and, specifically, its three-year-old “Path-to-College”, students from San Jose families have enrolled in local community colleges and state universities as well as prestigious institutions such as Harvard, UCLA and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

According to Executive Director Ali Barekat, many of our youth who have grown up with Sunday Friends have developed strong work ethics, good grades, and motivation to go to college, but need additional hands-on support to realize that goal, “Their parents, though eager to help, often lack formal education, computers and computer skills and English language fluency,” he says.

Though its programming has supported family development and parent engagement since 1997, the nonprofit decided in 2014 to assemble a team of professionals to help individual students prepare for college. Today, college guidance counselors, career coaches and language interpreters work one-on-one with prospective college applicants and their parents to make the dream of college come true.

Within the Sunday Friends program, the team of Path-to-College volunteer consultants advises students and parents regarding:

  • middle and high school class selection
  • career planning
  • college research
  • college entrance exams and preparation
  • college applications and financial aid.

The process begins with a conversation with a career coach, followed by a get-down-to-business session with a college guidance counselor. Families may return to Path-to-College as often as needed for continuing personalized help and also receive guidance concerning outside-of-school enrichment programs, summer programs and tutoring services. One participant said, “I didn’t know what my questions were when I first sat down with the counselor, but soon I was asking lots and lots of questions. I know what my next steps are now.”

One success story, Alma Perez, accompanied her cousin to Sunday Friends in 2014 and found it to be a “life-saving experience”, a way to earn basic necessities while learning and contributing to the community. In addition, Path-to-College consultants helped Alma navigate the San Jose City College financial aid process, which has enabled her to complete her studies. She has also received a Sunday Friends scholarship for books the past two years.

Alma will receive her Nursing Assistant Certificate next fall, after graduating and completing her summer externship.  “I will be the first in my family to graduate from a college,” Alma says. “It will be a great accomplishment and a great motivator for my three daughters.”  Alma’s 17-year-old daughter, Stephanie, has already met with a consultant to start on her own path to college.

Sunday Friends’ Path-to-College programming is funded in part by grants from the Office of San Jose Councilmember Johnny Khamis, Air Systems Foundation, Sathaye Family Foundation and Waddell & Reed Employees. Councilmember Khamis said, ““I am delighted to support the efforts of this wonderful organization that helps give people a hand up.

Visitors to Sunday Friends are welcome to tour the program and see Path-to-College in action on the second or fourth Sundays of each month. Reservations are required by contacting