Garfield freshman Fabiola Argueta, though new to a high school environment, already has her eyes set on college. Argueta, a member of the speech and debate team, water polo team and a myriad of other after-school activities, said she selected all of her extracurriculars to help her discover her interests as well as strengthen her resume for college applications.

Now, a new college-bound initiative targeted specifically at students in East Los Angeles will give Argueta access to a college environment while she still navigates the academics and activities of high school.

The “Go East LA: A Pathway for College and Career Success” program lets Garfield students take college-level classes for credit at East Los Angeles College. They can do this while also receiving credit from Garfield.

“Most of the kids in my class want to do it,” Argueta said while taking a break during her after-school debate club. “It gives you a chance to learn about what you want to do beforehand.”

The initiative is a collaborative effort between East Los Angeles College, the Los Angeles Unified School District and Cal State L.A. Once a student matriculates through the program and reaches minimum requirements, “Go East LA” promises enrollment at either ELAC or Cal State L.A.

The neighborhood-focused program had its official roll-out earlier this year. On Tuesday, nearly 300 Garfield students and parents gathered in the newly opened Jaime Escalante Auditorium to tap into the program’s resources and register for ELAC classes.

Through the program all ELAC classes will be free to Garfield students, according to a representative from Cal State L.A. Many school administrators emphasized that the only cost students might incur would be paying for a flash drive. In addition, ELAC professors are slated to come to the high school after school or on the weekends to teach classes, ranging from Chicano studies to criminal justice to anthropology.

The classes at ELAC will be in addition to the eight classes they are registered for at Garfield. Students can take up to two college-level classes a semester. They will begin taking classes in February, according to administrators from Garfield. Potentially students who began the program their freshman year would be able to leave Garfield with both their high school diploma and associate’s degree.

Reyna Hernandez, a representative from ELAC, addressed the students in Garfield's auditorium while a majority of the parents listened to a Spanish translation of her presentation through a headset. Hernandez highlighted the importance of Garfield students to East L.A., saying they were the community’s “next generation.”

“You’re our future. We have this opportunity for you. It’s a commitment. I’m not going to stand up here and tell you it is going to be easy,” Hernandez cautioned.

Garfield’s student population numbers at 2,242, according to LAUSD data from the 2012-13 school year. The student body has a Latino population of 99 percent, making it very reflective of the surrounding community. Only 5.5 percent of adults in East L.A. have a bachelor’s degree, according to officials who spearheaded the program.

Fifteen elementary schools and four middle schools, which are feeder schools to Garfield, are also involved in the pipeline program. Many school administrators believe this program can be integral in raising those numbers.

“‘Go East LA’ is phenomenal," Assistant Principal Gilbert Martinez said. "It provides people who are disenfranchised with an opportunity to go to college. We want them to be exposed to a college environment because that’s something that we don’t have all the time.”

Garfield Principal Jose Huerta added, “Frankly this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

For its pilot year, the only high school “Go East LA” will focus on will be Garfield. But organizers of the program aim to expand it in the near future, in order to continue fostering a culture of college readiness among the high school students in the area. Roosevelt, Torres and Ramona high schools are other secondary institutions for teenagers in the community.

“We’re concentrating on getting it right in one school,” Guzman said. “You’re talking about 20 plus years of impacting students’ lives, so we want to make sure what we’re promising and what we can deliver is state-of-the-art.”

How "College Ready" Are Students? |Create infographics