Pre-College Institute

Supporting San Diego Schools

Since 1983, the SDSU Pre-College Institute has setup partnerships between federally funded TRIO programs, public schools, and academic departments/research units at the University. The Institute has integrated three existing federally funded programs (Talent Search, Upward Bound Classic, and Upward Bound STAR) to serve underrepresented students and their teachers in low-income neighborhoods. Through the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP), high school students participate in a work-study internship program over the summer that fosters career exploration and research. Undergraduate students develop their research skills through an intensive 8-week summer program. 

As the landscape of education continues to shift, the SDSU Pre-College Institute is prepared to continue our commitment to our partners and our communities. We believe that supporting our students, as well as their teachers and families is vital to their education, and to the future of our community. 

Congratulations to our Office of Community Engagement and Upward Bound for the continued funding of the Talent Search programs and Upward Bound Classic and STAR for 2022-2027!

Office of Community Engagement 


Upward Bound 



Our Founder and Executive Director

Cynthia D. Park, Ph.D.

A headshot of Dr. Cynthia D. Park

Cynthia Darché Park has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Research. She is the Executive Director and founder of the Pre-College Institute, which houses two Upward Bound Programs, two Talent Search programs, a Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP), and Pathways Service-learning Tutoring Program. Dr. Park also directs the HCOP Undergraduate Research Summer Program.

She believes that with the appropriate access to resources, opportunities, services, and support systems, all students can develop a skill set that can help them change their narrative, create a new story, and essentially improve their life chances through advocacy and learning.

Her philosophy begins with, “Accepting the whole student, by honoring the students’ choices, and by providing the student with the academic, social and emotional support to be successful in an environment that is often unfamiliar to that student’s way of being and knowing.”

She cultivates an “Asset-Based Perspective,” in which she believes that all students are competent and capable of succeeding and accomplishing their personal, academic, and professional goals.

Dr. Park is a Professor of Teacher Education, at the SDSU School of Teacher Education. She co-teaches the GEN-S 280 and the TE 362 service-learning courses.

She serves as a faculty mentor for the Faculty-Student Mentoring Program (F-SMP) in which she mentors an average of 10 undergraduate students per year. She works with her mentees through college graduation and into graduate or professional school.

Dr. Park has received numerous local, regional, and national awards for her community engagement and service to underrepresented communities.

Our Programs 

Upward Bound

SDSU Upward Bound Program/HCOP Academy is funded to serve 167 San Diego County students at nine partner schools during the academic year and the summer. 

The program consists of two closely related parts: a six-week summer experience on the SDSU campus and an academic year follow-up, which is an opportunity for students to continue to participate in the program.

Counselors provide support to participants in preparation for college entrance through tutoring, assistance with college applications, and monthly college prep workshops. 


Talent Search

Talent Search is a TRiO program funded by the U.S. Department of Education to assist students in pursuing a postsecondary education. Talent Search is a FREE program open to eligible 9th-12th grade students at participating high schools. We are funded to serve 1516 students annually.

Our advisors work with students from partner high schools to prepare for college. Talent Search students participate in career exploration, college visits, and assistance during financial aid and college application process. Students in middle and high school receive in class tutoring through our collaboration with the Pathways Service Learning Tutoring (listed below).



Pathways Service Learning Tutoring provides SDSU students a supportive learning community of scholars who are enrolled in a service-learning course and engaging in an early fieldwork experience. 

SDSU students provide in-class and after school support in math, science, AVID, English, Spanish, and early literacy in 25 partner schools. Tutors build community, earn course credit, and give back. We have paid and volunteer positions available each semester. 


HCOP logo

SDSU Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) is part of the HCOP San Diego Regional Consortium, a partnership of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine (Department of Pediatrics, Center for Community Health), SDSU, San Diego Border Area Health Education Center/Scripps Family Residency Program, nine Community Colleges and nine high schools.

The goal of the HCOP partnership is to increase the number of qualified socio-economically and regionally diverse individuals to enter the region's health care workforce. At SDSU, HCOP consists of two parts, the high school pre-internship and internship programs and the undergraduate Scholars program. Program participants get hands-on experience working with a mentor in research labs throughout San Diego County and receive a stipend for their participation. 

 Faculty-Student Mentoring Program logo

In partnership with the Division of Faculty Advancement and Student Success within Academic Affairs, PCI involves the Pathways Office and HCOP program to support, assist, and motivate each student in the acquisition of skills, knowledge and ways of thinking that will promote their individual development as a scholar and a thinker.

F-SMP offers each student psychosocial support that is relevant to possible work, career, and professional advancement in life beyond the baccalaureate. Aspiring students should have achieved junior status, be eligible for work/study financial aid, and demonstrate a commitment and interest in their own personal and professional growth.

The PCI mentoring model aims to create a safe, open environment in which each student can both learn and try things for themselves within the guidelines of the selected evaluation research paradigm. The PCI model also offers students the opportunity to work in an apprentice role to an experienced educational researcher.


Our support of learning during the pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly shifted our schools and work to virtual, we adapted to the needs of our students. Our services were streamlined and provided virtually across projects to support our student's needs first. 

Our instructional team published the following article reflecting on their experience and the systems in place during the twin pandemics. Turning on a Dime:  Implications of an Unanticipated Shift to Online Learning of a Multicultural Service-Learning Course:  Lessons and Insights for Higher Education Administrators and Instructors on Student-Centered Learning Opportunities from Journal of Higher Education Management - Vol 36(1) by the American Association of University Administrators (AAUA).

Three of our partner teachers wrote about their experience with us as through the transition to virtual learning, and their support for our programs. Letters are posted below. 

Letter of Support from SDUSD Teacher

Letter of Support from SDUSD Teacher

Letter of Support from SDUSD Teacher

Contact Us 

Pre-College Institute
San Diego State University
San Diego, CA 92182-1103