California State University, Long Beach
Inside CSULB Logo

$3 Million Award To Help At-Risk Students Attain A College Degree

Published: November 1, 2010

CSULB is one of six California State University campuses to be awarded a total of $3 million by the California Gang Reduction Intervention and Prevention Program to help at-risk students attain a college degree to become teachers. The Governor’s Discretionary Workforce Investment Act funding will support teacher pathway development programs that integrate after-school employment with teacher preparation.

The program is aimed at reducing gang involvement by providing at-risk 17-to-24-year-old students with a pathway to teaching. The six CSU campuses to receive funding for the program include East Bay, San Francisco, San Diego, Dominguez Hills, Long Beach and Northridge, with half offering a specific emphasis on preparing science, technology and math teachers.

Each of the programs involves a partnership between a CSU campus, a community college, a community-based organization and an after-school employer. Participants attend community college while earning a salary by working in an after-school program in their community. They will transfer then to a CSU campus to earn teaching credential degrees and eventually return to teach in their communities.

CSULB partners with Cerritos Community College on this project, said Marquita Grenot-Scheyer, dean of the College of Education. “We are building a pipeline from our local diverse communities to Cerritos College and CSULB,” she said. “We hope many of these students will return to their communities as teachers in their neighborhood schools. Many of these students have been members of gangs or have come from impoverished backgrounds. Many have been less than successful in their educational careers. But these students have shown potential and promise and I am hopeful that, once they are successful at Cerritos, they will transition to CSULB and complete a degree and credential program.”

The program’s first cohort of students will reach CSULB in 2012. “They are youths from various underrepresented ethnic minority groups who work with after-school programs with the intention of acquiring field experiences with children,” explained Grenot-Scheyer, who began her term as dean in 2008. “They go to Cerritos College for a bridge program to strengthen various areas of study, and an A.A. degree, which is the first two years of an integrated multiple subject credential program. Then these same students will arrive at CSULB as a cohort and hopefully attend the College of Education and become teachers or other educational professionals.”

The current project is the latest in a series of partnerships between Cerritos College and CSULB, explained Grenot-Scheyer. “Cerritos Community College and CSULB’s College of Education have been involved together with a number of teacher pathway projects and have built a strong relationship,” she said. “When this project came along, I contacted Sue Parsons at Cerritos and asked if they would be interested in partnering with CSULB.”

Parsons, a CSULB alumna, is a professor of mathematics and director of TeacherTRAC at Cerritos, and praises the partnership. “This specific grant funds a pilot group recruited from the community and high schools in areas of high risk of gangs,” said Parsons. “We look for students who are not only physically but socioeconomically at risk. We offer support services for all participating students but for those with a propensity for teaching, it is highly structured for them. The goal for our students is to earn a bachelor’s degree and teaching credential while going through as a cohort. They also work with after-school programs at partnering schools.

“Some of the first cohort members already are at work in after-school groups in the communities from which they came. They serve as positive role models. It is a win-win situation,” said Parsons. “They get content background by working in after-school programs while earning some financial assistance. I’ve been working with the current cohort and they are definitely very connected and dedicated. It is a pleasure to offer them support.”

Parsons praised the CSULB-Cerritos partnership as a model for others. “This is what a campus partnership ought to be,” she said. “There is respect and trust built on the common goal of helping students become quality future teachers. What we learn from this student cohort will go to help the next. Anything we can learn, from student support services to programmatic structure, we will use to better help the next cohort of students. We want to help build a pathway for students with this partnership so that they may affect change as future teachers.”

Parsons praised the linking of the practical and the theoretical in the students’ instruction. “That way, students see both sides of teaching, the practical and the application of what they learn in class,” she said. “It helps their motivation, too. These are students who face many challenges in their lives. It has been phenomenal to work with them. They receive positive support from their peers and from faculty members. Results come from partnerships like this where everyone is involved.”

Grenot-Scheyer feels that the program fits into the College of Education’s mission of creating highly effective educators whether they are K-12 teachers or school counselors or principals. “We are especially interested in creating a pipeline of diverse students who are interested in working with the diverse school campuses in this area,” she said. “This fits perfectly with what we value and what is important to us.”

One of the strengths the university brings to the program is its location. “Long Beach is situated in a wonderfully diverse community. The College of Education serves the Long Beach Unified School District and school districts up and down the 605 freeway. We have a natural laboratory of clinical experiences for our students,” she said. “In all the educator preparation programs, the college has embedded field experiences. Students are in classrooms or other community settings from the beginning of their programs. When students reach their culminating field experiences, whether those are student teaching or the final clinical practicum for school psychology, they know what they’re getting into. The students understand the challenges and opportunities in these diverse schools and their diverse settings. Long Beach is a perfect setting for creating highly qualified educators that the College of Education has in mind.”