This week, high schools across New York City and State are participating in College Application Week from October 17-21, a statewide initiative around college planning and application activities in an effort to increase the number of low-income and first generation students applying to college.

For the first time since it began four years ago, a record 365 high schools across every borough are participating in College Application Week, reaching more than 53,000 students. Schools are providing a series of events ranging from workshops and panels on the path to college for 9th graders, to college and financial aid application sessions for 12th graders.

As the daughter of Puerto Rican born parents who moved to the Bronx knowing very little English and the first person in my family to go to college, I know how difficult the college process can be – especially filling out college applications and financial aid forms. But I also know that whether or not our young people go to college shouldn’t be decided by what neighborhood they live in or what language they or their parents speak.

Our goal is to reach and inform every parent, grandparent and guardian about the college process, remind all our students that they can pursue college, and give them and their families the support they need to do that.

At the numerous town halls and family events I’ve visited across the city, I’ve seen families eager to get information about the college process in all grade levels. Parents and grandparents today want the same thing my parents once wanted for my siblings and me – a shot at success.

That’s why here at the DOE – teachers, school staff, and administrators are all committed to Equity and Excellence for All, a range of initiatives that we are implementing through a variety of programs like College Access for All, which works to improve the college process for all students and families and put more students on the path to college.

By making the path to college accessible for everyone, we are going to make a real difference for students and families.

We are removing barriers and giving our students and families the support they need to go on to college and careers – from making the SAT available for free during the school day, to eliminating the CUNY application fee, to increasing the number of AP courses, to bringing a record number of schools into College Application Week this year. College Access for All will also ensure that, by the 2018-19 school year, every student will have the resources and support at their high school to graduate with an individual college and career plan.

Our schools will continue to share information about College Access for All as we move forward, and I am excited to work with parents as partners as we make these initiatives a reality. Additional information on College Application Week and college planning tools and resources for students, families, and educators are available at: eapplicationweek

(Yolanda Torres is Executive Superintendent of the Division of Family and Community Engagement)