Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Great Expectations

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Great Expectations

Article excerpt

An innovative partnership on the east side of Los Angeles, which brings together California Stale, Los Angeles; East Los Angeles Community College; and the Los Angeles Unified School District, has been creating a "college-going culture" among students beginning with first-graders.

Since its launch in 2014, GO (Great Outcomes) Hast LA has been one of the California State University system's initiatives aimed at increasing graduation rates and eliminating achievement gaps among its students by 2025. CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White has challenged the institutions in the system to reach an achievement gap of zero between underserved students and those with greater advantages.

In September, the Board of Trustees approved Graduation Initiative 2025, which is designed to benefit CSU's 475,000 students across the system's 23 campuses by reducing barriers to completing their degrees while maintaining academic rigor and quality, according to a news release.

"If you are an underrepresented minority or if you are a Pelleligible student, your chances of graduating from the California Stale University system should be no different from your peers, so we're aiming to completely eliminate those gaps," says Dr. James T. Minor, who was recently appointed CSU's senior strategist for academic success and inclusive excellence.

Minor previously served as a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education.

He points out that part of his responsibility is assisting the chancellor in meeting "the very ambitious goals" of the Graduation Initiative 2025 and "establishing CSU as a leader for providing high-quality, affordable higher education - as first and best in class"

Minor adds his role will include supporting the efforts on all 23 campuses and engaging the 3 million-plus alumni as partners in those efforts.

Continuing the pipeline

Now in its third year, GO East LA has already begun the work outlined in the chancellor's challenge. White called for "establishing a continuous pipeline from preschool to a bachelor's degree with state support for growth with quality at every level of a child's education."

Go East LA constructs that pipeline. It "creates the environment for developing a college-going culture; a culture where all students - starting in the first grade - will be on the path to college and to achieving success," says East L.A. College President Marvin Martinez, at the launch of the program in May 2014.

University and community college faculty, students and administrators work directly with K-12 students to stress the importance of college and to prepare them academically for higher education. One key feature of the program is that East L.A. Community College is offering college credit courses in schools.

The courses include subjects such as robotics, languages and theater, which appeal to younger students but also are academically challenging. "The students stay at their home schools and the faculty come to them at those schools," GO East LA Faculty Director Bianca Guzman explains. "Those courses have been extremely popular because the parents understand there is no fee and students can accumulate credits that they can later transfer [to a college]."

Inspired by Harlem Children's Zones, the program has exceeded expectations in its first two years, according to Guzman. "We have doubled the number of schools in the pipeline from about 20 schools to about 45," she tells Diverse, adding that "we went from about 27,000 to about 60,000 kids in the East Los Angeles area. …

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