Councilman Rex Richardson at a press conference honoring college bound students from Jordan High School. Photos: Jason Ruiz
Jordan High School Students were recognized for their achievements in the classroom in a public way today, as banners with students' names and the colleges they’re set to attend next year were hanged from light poles near the school. The ceremony was part of the North Long Beach Whole Village Initiative, which began last year.
Two of the originators of the Whole Village concept, Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson and LBUSD School Board Member Megan Kerr were on hand, along with other educational officials, to honor the close to 150 students going on to universities or the armed forces after the end of this school year.
“These youth are future human capital of society of Long Beach,” Richardson said. “North Long Beach has tremendous things to offer in terms of our human capital. These kids have worked for many many years and it’s time that community recognizes them every year for their aspirations to attend college and be leaders in this community.”
Six months ago, Richardson and Kerr came together with other community stakeholders to form the “whole village” that includes four separate task forces charged with innovating ways to help the youth of the community succeed. One of those task forces, the College Readiness Task Force, created workshops for students and parents to help facilitate the paperwork process of applying to schools. The task force also suggested that once those students reach their goal, they should be honored publicly.
Kerr, who has several family members who are Jordan alumni themselves, said that the families of North Long Beach have been working hard for decades and the decision by the city to finally recognize that will serve as a reminder to everyone who sees the blue and gold banners hanging on the Atlantic Corridor.
“What we choose to do today and what we choose to do with the whole village is really take responsibility to lift up our students and congratulate them and honor them for the work they’re doing,” Kerr said. “What better way than when you’re driving down these very busy streets than seeing the names and the colleges that they’re going to to remind us that they’re here everyday working hard.”
Not all students were aware that their accomplishments were going to be on display to motorists driving past Jordan for the whole summer. Carolina Tizcareno Alatorre, 18, who is set to attend the University of California at San Diego said she found out through Instagram posts from fellow classmates that she would have her name and college destination on display. She added that students need all the extra motivation they can get when it comes to getting into college.
“It made me feel really special that the city of Long Beach, they actually appreciate us who are going to college,” Tizcareno Alatorre said. “It just makes me feel like I’m appreciated.”
Senior, Monikea Williams, who will be attending California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), said that although the banners are a nice way to recognize her classmate’s achievements, they could help serve a larger purpose of bringing the hope for a college education to the entire community. Williams, who has two younger siblings, said that the message the banners send could resonate with a lot of people who might not think that college is a possibility just because they’re from North Long Beach.
“It shows them that just because we live in North Long Beach, we can still make it,” Williams said. “We won’t just finish high school and be done with it. We are still going on. I feel like it can motivate people because to see they can get their name on a banner, they could work for that opportunity also.”
Jordan High School Principal Shawn Ashley was intense and to the point when he took the podium, thanking the city for outwardly showing that his students are smart and “worth the effort.” Ashley said that at Jordan the goal isn’t a high school diploma, it’s the 13th year and beyond, because a high school education alone is not enough to make it in today’s world.
However, she said, she said it's most important to ingrain a college education into the area’s culture, as it could uplift the surrounding neighborhoods and the families who live there.
“If they go to college, their brothers and sisters will go to college one day,” Ashley said. “If they go to college, their children will go to college one day. This type of thing breaks the cycle.”
Richardson—who has been a strong advocate of the Uptown Renaissance, a movement to beautify and improve the northern part of the city—said that education and youth is the reason why elected officials do the work that they do.
Recalling his own struggles as a first-generation college student, he admitted that statistically speaking, he shouldn’t have ended up where he is. That’s a large part of the reason why he believes in the village concept as mentoring opportunities—which the whole village program offers in addition to internships, after school programs and job opportunities—can help shape the future of communities students grow up in.
“These kids spend a lot of time on a college campus and the rest of their time in the community,” Richardson said. “A community is made up of people and the relationships between those people. When the people are hurting, the community is hurting. When the people are thriving the community is thrives.”