WATSONVILLE — Beginning this month, babies born in Watsonville will have a small head start toward college.
That’s thanks to Santa Cruz Community Ventures, which has launched Savings and Engagement for Education and Development Success, otherwise known as SEEDS.
The program will launch with newborn babies from Salud Para la Gente in Watsonville and the East Cliff Family Health Center in Live Oak. Organizers hope the program will evolve to include children born countywide.
The idea, said SCCV Executive Director Maria Cadenas, is to set each child up with a tax-free, interest-bearing account at the beginning of their lives, either $25 or $50, depending on the family’s income.
The program is based on a 2013 study by the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, which showed that young people who have even $1 in a college account are anywhere from three to four times more likely to enroll in college.
“Our biggest commitment is making sure our kids are succeeding and getting the tools they need,” Cadenas said. “You need a small investment, and you can grow a great return out of it.”
The program is funded by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, the county’s Health Services Agency, United Way of Santa Cruz County, First 5 and the City of Watsonville. Organizers hope that community donations will allow it to continue and grow. They also hope it has enough revenue to make continued deposits into the account.
The program also includes financial discussions with the parents.
“The hope of the program is that it starts a conversation with the parents and the community to make sure the child succeeds in life,” Cadenas said.
Similar programs have shown success across the country. The first was launched in 2007 in Oklahoma.
SCCV organizers introduced the program to the Watsonville City Council on Sept. 24.
“Higher education is the great equalizer for a lot of the disparities that we have, this program will be vital in the community of Watsonville, which does have a lot of inequities,” councilman Felipe Hernandez said.
For information, or to make a donation, visit sccvonline.org.