Everett Glenn was shocked when he learned that the majority of students of color who were graduating from a Long Beach high school had not met the requirements to apply to college.
Data from the California Department of Education shows that in recent years, less than 30% of Black students in graduating classes from the Long Beach Unified School District have met the benchmark to be considered prepared for college or a career, while less than 40% of Hispanic students have met that bar.
“I couldn’t believe that number,” said Glenn, a retired attorney who practiced corporate law for 46 years and represented professional athletes. “The way I’ve been raised, I said, ‘I have to do something about that.’”
For Glenn, who used sports to develop discipline and persistence within his own life, he wanted to inspire youth in a similar way—with the tools to develop the habits, mindset, and skills to be successful, he said.
“We’re pushing the envelope, we’re teaching them stuff they didn’t learn in school,” said Glenn, who was the first Black attorney to work for Long Beach’s city attorney’s office. “There’s only three kinds of people: the few who make things happen, the many who watch things happen, and the overwhelming majority who don’t know what’s happening.”
BOSS, or Business of Student Success, began several years ago with one-day events and now offers both summer and year-round programming for about 175 middle school and high schoolers, who are mostly boys of color from the Long Beach Unified School District.
Year-round programming includes daily tutoring, plus career exposure and networking opportunities.
With weekly check-ins from coaches and biweekly Saturday group meetings, youth are able to discover the different paths to success through meeting professionals from throughout the country, Glenn said.
With the goal of developing well-rounded skills, students participate in opportunities for advocacy and service throughout the year.
Glenn hopes that through continuous conversations and mentorship, the lives of BOSS participants will be transformed—which is particularly crucial for youth of color, who are frequently underestimated by their teachers, family members and communities, he said.
“That’s why we’re passionate, driven and committed,” Glenn said. “We’re madly in love with their potential. We speak life into them . . . As long as they keep coming back, then we see the difference.”
A lack of educational equity creates a vicious cycle, and BOSS hopes to close the achievement gap, Glenn said.
“We’re trying to change the dynamic where it’s become acceptable: low performance, low goals, low self-esteem,” Glenn said. “I knew what I wanted to be when I was 12 years old. I had people encouraging me.
“We’re doing for the boys,” Glenn added, “what was done for me—letting them see everything that’s possible, help them understand what it’s going to take to make it possible, and then support them in making it possible for themselves.”
Glenn and the BOSS staff aim to consistently demonstrate success themselves and what it takes to achieve it; during this year’s Long Beach Gives in September, the organization raised nearly $130,000, which will be used toward developing a Legends Zone, which would be a public space for BOSS participants to not only play games but to learn about coding and creating games themselves, Glenn said.
“The kids didn’t think we’d earn $130,000,” Glenn said. “One of our principles . . . is that ‘proper preparation prevents poor performance.’
“We practice what we preach,” he added. “Commitment is the key to everything.”
Looking forward, Glenn plans to develop a parents’ council to encourage more parental involvement and support, with hopes to eventually expand across the country and even open a school.
But in the meantime, every student who is able to raise his GPA, enter high school prepared, and then graduate and move on to college is an immense success for the organization, Glenn said.
“It really started off a passion and trying to make a difference, understanding that the success I’ve had in life—which has been considerable—has always been a result of people pouring into me,” Glenn said. “I feel obligated to do it. I don’t have a choice. I think it’s my purpose.”