Keyon smiles in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. at sunset

Going Beyond

Keyon Anderson never imagined that this would be his reality.

ďI knew at a very young age that my brain didnít work like other peopleís.”

Keyon in profile in Washington, DC

Keyon Anderson is graduating this week with his masterís degree in social work.

As the son of a single mother whose work often kept her away from home, Keyon was often left to live with friends and family members at a young age.

While he was exposed to poverty, gang violence and drugs, his biggest challenge was overcoming a learning disability.

Keyon went into high school reading at a second grade level.

Through the persistence of his mother, he was finally diagnosed with dyslexia. Teachers prior to that had attributed his troubles in school to behavioral issues.

His high school special education class teacher helped him become motivated to learn how to read and catch up with the other kids.

With help from his teachers and a lot of hard work and power of will, Keyon was reading at the appropriate grade level by the end of his freshman year.

Keyon laughs in front of a mural in the neighborhood where he grew up as a child

“It didnít quite register that I had learned as much as I learned in such a short period of time because, for the first time, I was enjoying it. So by the time I got to my sophomore year in high school, Iíd actually tested out of the reading classes, and by the time I got to my 11th grade year, I was part of the regular population.”

At the same time, Keyon participated in the Step Into the Beach program offered through the Long Beach College Promise.

The Long Beach College Promise is a nationally renowned partnership between Long Beach Unified School District, Long Beach City College and CSULB. The College Promise offers Long Beachís youth pathways from pre-K through college and onto careers, including one tuition-free year at LBCC and guaranteed admission to CSULB for qualified Long Beach students.

The program organizes trips for students from local schools to visit CSULB and learn about requirements and meet potential mentors.

It was then that Keyon resolved to go to college.

Keyon with Brandon Gamble, associate professor of Advanced Studies in Education and Counseling at CSULB

ďHe knew he was going to college. I wasnít surprised by that, but I think maybe my colleagues were because he was within a few years of special education and sometimes people make all kinds of assumptions about what thatís supposed to mean. So he was kind of breaking it down to them to them like: ĎLook Iím out of here. Iím doing big things and yíall should know that.í Thatís pretty much how he operated all through high school.”

- Brandon Gamble, associate professor of advanced studies in education and counseling

Professor Gamble worked as a school psychologist when Keyon was in high school. He mentored Keyon and helped him get to college.

Keyon graduated from CSULB in 2012 with a bachelorís in social work, and while earning his masterís degree heís been serving as assistant director for the Long Beach chapter of the California Student Opportunity Access Program that provides financial aid services to low-income and first-generation students who are traditionally underrepresented in colleges and universities.

Keyon uses a lot of his own life experiences to relate to students he works with as a college advisor. Heís since found his passion for helping first-generation, low-income and ethnic minority kids achieve higher education.

As an advocate of the Long Beach College Promise, Keyon was recently invited to Washington D.C. to participate in First Lady Michelle Obamaís Beating the Odds summit.

In August, Keyon will start earning his Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Southern California.

Keyon laughs with his mom Willetta Dart in their North Long Beach neighborhood

ďI think that when Iím at graduation, that kid will be there and heíll be looking out at my family, and theyíll be excited and heíll be excited and it will just be a very emotional feeling for me.”

California State University, Long Beach

1250 Bellflower Blvd
Long Beach, California 90840