Mayor Robert Garcia signs Long Beach College Promise expansion at McBride High School. Photos by Jason Ruiz.
Despite Columbus Day granting most students the day off, children of all ages gathered in a conference room at Ernest S. McBride High School today to witness the signing of an expansion of the Long Beach College Promise (LBCP) which focused on attainable quality pre-school programs and increased internship opportunities in the city.
Mayor Robert Garcia was joined by Long Beach City College (LBCC) President Eloy Oakley, California State University Long Beach (CSULB) President Jane Conoley and Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser to sign into affect the changes to the LBCP.
Created in 2008, the LBCP is an agreement between the educational institutions in the city to create better prepared students who are entering college and to also improve the access to both LBCC and CSULB. Starting in 4th or 5th grade, students visit campuses, sign the LBCP and start the conversation about the path that leads to college.
Today, Mayor Garcia said was a historic day as the City joined the educational system to help achieve the goals of every student in Long Beach.
“The missing partner has always been the City,” Garcia said as he spoke to the packed room at McBride. “And while the City has certainly been supportive of the LBPC, and the City has always been a great cheerleader for our educational institutions, we have an ability as a City to be a full parter in the college promise.”
Garcia went on to stress the importance of making universal preschool attainment a priority and the city’s commitment to his goal of doubling the amount of internships in Long Beach. Garcia reiterated a point he made at his first policy address at CSULB in July that he aspires for the city to have an internship to student ratio closer to Boston (50,000 students/15,000 internships) than what Long Beach currently has (80,000 students/1,500 internships). So, the city is doubling the number of internships from 400 to 800 and encouraging business in Long Beach to follow suit.
“We are committed, as part of this college promise, that young high school minds as well as our students in college have access to quality internships,” Garcia said.
Efforts to strengthen the educational chain from preschool to college has what’s made LBUSD a success, with many of its schools ranking among the best nationally year after year.
Oakley said that the LBCP and those committed to making it work have been what’s helped students in Long Beach prove national trends wrong. To Oakley, if you believe that 70% of public school students automatically won't be prepared for college, you’re giving up on the future.
“Even though people suggest to us that if these kids start with a public education, their chances—especially these wonderful faces of color—that their chances are maybe 1-in-a-100 that they will finish a bachelors degree,” Oakley said. “We don’t believe that in Long Beach.”
The commitment from all of the involved institutions is what’s made the LBPC such an effective tool in getting Long Beach students to the college level and eventually earning degrees. President Conoley noted that CSULB has already noticed a spike in college-ready students, with twice as many freshmen being ready for college math and three times as many students entering the university prepared for college English courses.
Statistics compiled by U.S. News for 2012 college admissions showed CSULB received just under 55,000 applications, the most of any CSU by far. Although they admit only about 8,000 new students every year, divided between first-time students and transfers, Conoley reassured the audience that Long Beach is committed to admitting students from LBUSD.
“I’ve come today to reaffirm CSULB’s promise that we will hold a seat,” Conoley said as she searched for high school kids in the crowd. “There is a spot for you at CSULB. Each and every one of you who is eligible to enroll, you have a spot there. We are invested in the improvement of our community.”
Jessica Dowdy, a sophomore at McBride High School, said that the college promise provides a sense of calm to students who often get caught up in the worry of being accepted into the college of their choice. The LBCP, to Dowdy, represents stability in her road to continuing her education past high school.
“It makes me feel relieved and I feel like my future is more concrete like it’s a goal and reachable rather than it just a dream,” Dowdy said. “We’ve been told since we’ve been young that we need to go to college, well how are we going to get into college because there are so many other kids that want to go to college. With this college promise it just assures us that we’re going to be able to do that.”
Dowdy, whom has aspirations of becoming a politician herself, is excited about the city’s decision to enter into the LBCP and push for more internships. Although just a sophomore, she has completed three internships with attorneys and hopes to surpass that total once she gets to a university.
“If I can do more than that in college, I feel like I’d be much better prepared and I wont just be thrown into a career where I have no idea what I”m doing,” Dowdy said.
Another 15-year-old student at McBride, Maryann Gallegos simply said that the LBCP represents hope to all students, regardless of socioeconomic standing or family history of higher education. The fact that there is a definitive, streamlined path to a college education for LBUSD students and to have more programs like this across the country would be helpful for both the students and their families, according to Gallegos.
“It would help and I think it would make more people want to go to college,” Gallegos said. “A lot of families today don’t have a lot of money so it helps letting them know that, 'Okay, I can go to college not matter what,’ and even with a little bit of college it can help me and inspire me to do more.’”
Garcia, whose family immigrated from Peru, is a product of CSULB and knows the value of higher education and the quality of teaching available on the campus of his alma mater. He also knows that education starts at a young age, and to better students’ chances of achievement and to improve the city’s workforce, you must start young.
“We believe that the single most important thing you can do to strengthen our local and regional and national economy is to invest in education which is why education will be my top priority as mayor and why i’ve decided to partner with our great institutions,” Garcia said.