In a living room in south Sacramento, two educators outlined a college path for 17-year-old Kevin Powers and his family.
Bryan Barton and James Pale, both coaches at Burbank High School, urged the Titans football player with a high grade-point average to explore academic and athletic scholarships along with other kinds of financial aid.
A generation ago, such home visits were rare. But in 1998, three mothers in the Meadowview area wanted their children to learn at a faster pace.
They worked with the faith-based Sacramento Area Congregations Together to launch the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project. The program has become so popular that it now operates in 14 states.
The concept is simple. Teachers, counselors and other educators volunteer to visit students' homes and connect with their families during crucial periods such as the start of elementary, middle or high school.
"The goal was to engage families outside the school site and then partner with them to engage kids," said Lisa Levasseur, Sacramento project director for the nonprofit.
The added benefits of those visits are new relationships and parent-teacher trust.
At Powers' in-home session last week, Pale and Barton outlined requirements to graduate and enter college. Barton said he will monitor Powers' progress in his senior year, when his schedule is filled with college-prep courses.
Powers has played varsity football at Burbank since his sophomore year.
This year, he said, he will add the leadership academy, which teaches students conflict management.
He'll need to start soon on the mountain of college applications.
"When does the paperwork have to be turned in?" his mother, Jennifer Powers, asked the coaches. "I want to make sure I am ahead of the schedule."
Later, she said, "We appreciate you guys. We couldn't do it by ourselves."
Barton, who coaches track and is the school registrar, told her of Burbank's Parent University, which has monthly workshops on topics from financial aid to college choices.
In November and February, parents can join campus field trips to California State University, Sacramento, and the University of California, Davis, respectively.
Pale, who teaches English and coaches football, said it's a myth that one's senior year in high school is the easiest.
"We can't let him slide at all," Pale told Powers' parents. "He is still going to take a lot of classes and he has got to hit those classes hard."
Focusing on high school seniors such as Powers is a relatively new approach, said Levasseur. Program organizers saw an opportunity to help seniors succeed in college.
Fifteen years ago when the program began, six elementary and two middle schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District joined the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project.
Locally, the program is now in 34 Sacramento city schools and six San Juan Unified School District campuses.
In another south Sacramento home, Spanish teacher Elizabeth Villanueva visited Burbank senior Monse Bojado and her family last week. Bojado said through a translator she had planned to be a lawyer. That changed after she spent time with special education students at Burbank. Now she wants to be a child psychologist.
Bojado, 18, was born in California and grew up in Mexico. She came to Sacramento last year with her mother, Guadalupe Rebolledo, to be with her father, who operates a trucking business.
Villanueva, who visited Bojado's family with counselor Leticia Gallardo, said the student's first challenge was getting transcripts from Mexico to keep her on the college track.
Bojado said she hoped to learn "what opportunities I have this year for college and scholarships and what I need to do for graduation."
Villanueva, who translated, called Bojado and two cousins also enrolled at Burbank "brilliant," with leadership qualities.
Bojado, Villanueva said, is a candidate for her Advanced Placement Spanish class, and she participates in the teacher's New Age Latina after-school program.
The Spanish teacher said she has empathy for Bojado's plight, recalling her own language barriers when she came from Mexico. She was so frustrated, she said, she "became obsessed with learning the (English) language."
After high school, she went to community college and then to CSU Stanislaus for her teaching credentials before earning a master's degree at Sacramento State in Spanish and Latin American culture and literature.
"I feel very connected with them," Villanueva said of the Bojado family.