Long Beach schools at all levels could soon see funding to help close the equity gaps.
UNITE-LA, an organization dedicated to addressing systemic barriers to education and career success, last month announced an investment of more than $18 million by the California Department of General Services. The Long Beach area, including Cal State Long Beach, Long Beach College Promise and LBUSD, is eligible to receive approximately $2.8 million in this funding over the next four years.
The Long Beach area is an integral part of a larger LA area K-16 collaboration that UNITE-LA has convened, which is anchored around five CSUs, including the CSULB, said Carrie Lemmon, vice president of the organization’s systems change strategy.
Representatives from Long Beach institutions hope to use the money to improve early exposure to health, engineering and IT fields and to further expand student access to education and career paths. of color.
Collaboration is key
“The call from the state was, ‘You can’t just work in your own little area,'” Lemmon said.
But collaborating to streamline educational pathways isn’t new to Long Beach. The city has always had a strong partnership between Cal State Long Beach, LBUSD, Long Beach City College and the Long Beach College Promise program, which provides two years of free LBCC education to students graduating from an LBUSD high school, said Lemmon.
UNITE-LA also understands the importance of working together. For nearly 15 years, the organization has convened task forces for the LA Compact, a collaboration of two dozen Los Angeles-area agencies, including LAUSD, the LA County Board of Supervisors, and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, which seeks to improve access to educational and career paths for people of color.
“We recognize that no single institution can solve these big issues that concern educational institutions and the workforce alone, so the pact brings together all the eminent leaders of the region to collectively try to lead this transformational change,” the UNITE-LA executive said. director Alysia Bell.
By uniting K-12 schools, community colleges, CSUs, and other community partners in each region to streamline educational pathways through the LA Region K-16 Collaboration, the work that the LA Compact and Long Beach College Promise have been doing for more than a decade can be built, Lemmon said.
Why Focus is Necessary
Although 70% of jobs nationwide are expected to require some sort of college degree by 2027, according to 2018 UNITE-LA data, there are clear disparities in access to education between Latino and Latino populations. black.
In 2018, only 55% of Latino students and 59% of black students enrolled in higher education, compared to 72% of their white peers, according to the California Department of Education.
There’s also a huge gap in persistence and completion, Lemmon said.
Particularly in the health care industry, black and Latino employees are concentrated in occupations with lower education requirements and wages, Lemmon said.
In LA County, 35% of licensed vocational nurses are Latino, compared to about 17% of registered nurses. Black workers make up 16% of licensed vocational nurses, but only 8% of registered nurses, according to 2021 data from the Center for a Competitive Workforce.
In computer science and engineering programs, there is also a gender disparity; while 53% of students enrolled in community colleges in Los Angeles County are women, only 18% of students enrolled in a computer science or engineering transfer program are women, Lemmon said.
“We know healthcare and engineering are high-paying jobs, and we know there’s a lack of saturation in those fields,” said Elijah Sims, acting principal of Long Beach College Promise.
Intended to reduce college attendance rates among students of color, the College Promise program has been extremely successful, Sims said.
“This kind of collaboration is really at the heart of what we’re trying to accomplish through College Promise and the grant,” Sims said.
What this means for Long Beach
And as part of the LA Region K-16 Collaborative, educational institutions in Long Beach hope to see even more progress.
In the first quarter of next year, most likely around March, Long Beach, along with the other sub-regions, will submit its funding proposals, all of which must meet three key objectives:
- Expand and improve dual enrollment offerings, ensuring students of color access and complete them;
- Improve transfer pathways and enrollment between community colleges and four-year colleges, particularly in the engineering, computer science, and healthcare sectors; and
- Develop workplace learning opportunities.
Applying strategies to students at every stage of their education is integral to and will be addressed in Long Beach’s proposal, Sims said.
While about 5,000 students graduate each year from an LBUSD school, about 2,500 of those students come to LBCC, with 1,000 then transferring to CSULB, Sims said.
Given the data, the Long Beach subregion will examine how students enter certain pathways, how they transition into college, and whether they understand what their choices are as well as the economic implications, Sims said.
“The students we want to support in this scholarship choose other majors,” Sims said. “We believe this grant will help us solve these problems. We are not going to do what is easy. We will do what matters, and what matters is that we start as soon as possible.
Elements of the proposal must address exposure to these careers as early as elementary school, while maintaining a focus on middle school, where students have the opportunity to envision their path, Sims said. For first-generation college students who don’t typically see as many people in their communities or families in these areas, this is especially important, he said.
At the university level, an example of the type of work the collaborative can support launched this fall at CSULB. The university’s new Youth Resilience Building, or “SYR,” program within the College of Health and Human Services aims to increase workforce opportunities for social work majors.
“One of the biggest factors that is holding us back from expanding the program is the number of clinical placements, because in social work, undergraduate students have to complete 500 hours of field experience,” said Monica Lounsbery, dean of the College of Health. and Human Services at CSULB. “So we compete with all the different institutions that offer these social work programs – we compete for these internships.”
Amid a gap in health care access and recognition that more support services are needed in more spaces, the College of Health and Human Services has partnered with the Miller Foundation, the Munger Foundation, the Long Beach Unified School District, Mental Health America of Los Angeles and the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach to consider a mutually beneficial program, Lounsbery said.
With the pilot program now underway, 11 graduate and undergraduate interns have been tasked with developing peer mentorship programs with middle school youth at Washington Middle School, Franklin Middle School, and the Long Beach Boys and Girls Club.
Lounsbery hopes that with funding from the K-16 collaboration, the School of Social Work will be able to add an additional 50 seats, as well as increase its stackable credits, ultimately better meeting the demand for healthcare professionals. qualified as the state and region. need, she said.
“A time of so much opportunity and hope”
While the Long Beach partners are still awaiting guidance from the stewardship group to move forward, Sims said the region will be ready to submit as soon as that guidance is provided.
“Our students cannot afford to wait. They’ve been waiting so long for us to figure this out, so it’s incumbent on us to be as efficient and quick as possible,” he said. “As we twiddle our thumbs waiting to find a process, we have people struggling with basic needs, with income, in ways they don’t understand how to monetize. These are all things we know we can fix.
Sims, who grew up in Long Beach Unified Schools and graduated from Long Beach City College and then Cal State Long Beach, is extremely excited about the possibilities of the grant, he said.
“I identify as a black male, and the data suggests that for students like me, I shouldn’t have done it as effectively as I did, and I shouldn’t have done it all,” said he declared. “I shouldn’t be the lucky one. I should be one of the many who have the opportunity to transform the experience through education. »
“It’s just a time of so much opportunity and hope for Long Beach residents and Long Beach students,” Sims said.