Long Beach Community College, USC Partner on Higher Education Program for Gang Youths

Long Beach Community College, USC Partner on Higher Education Program for Gang Youths
A student wears a facemask at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, Calif. on March 11, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
City News Service

LONG BEACH, Calif.—Gang-associated youths in the Long Beach area will get a helping hand to pursue higher education thanks to a nearly $1 million federal grant to Long Beach City College (LBCC) and the University of Southern California (USC) Rossier School of Education’s Pullias Center, it was announced Jan. 25.

The schools will receive $990,000 over the next three years to collaborate on the “LBCC Phoenix Scholars” program, aimed at promoting higher education for kids caught in the gang grip, LBCC announced.

The program—aimed at youths and adults ages 16 to 24—was the only recipient in the country for the competitive U.S. Department of Education grant, according to the LBCC announcement.

“Together, LBCC and USC will change the narrative for gang-affiliated youth who otherwise hadn’t considered a college education as part of their future,” said Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees President Uduak-Joe Ntuk.

“Studies indicate bleak numbers for gang youth to attend college—often due to high school experiences that foster a school-to-prison-pipeline. This new program is going to expand the high school-to-college mentality across Long Beach,” Ntuk added.

Participants will be referred to the scholars program by local education and nonprofit agencies. It will encompass an array of student services and support systems, including early college experiences, LBCC enrollment assistance, mentorships, internships, and specialized counseling.

There will also be a community advisory council, assistance with university transfer and post-graduate employment.

“This is a holistic, asset-based approach to gang-involved youth,” said Adrian Huerta of USC’s Pullias Center, who will serve as co-principal investigator. “LBCC Phoenix Scholars aims to contribute to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, provide a pathway for jobs and a college education and support for families of the youth impacted by gangs.”

Pedro Noguera, dean of the USC Rossier School of Education, said the program has the potential to extend beyond the community.

“This is an exciting opportunity to contribute and provide a new horizon for youth, who did not initially have college in their sight,” Noguera said.

LBCC District Superintendent-President Mike Muñoz said the program’s outreach can connect marginalized kids to “positive opportunities and trustful relationships” they might otherwise not have imagined.

“There are young people out there who have been criminalized and stigmatized prematurely,” he said. “The Phoenix Scholars program will create an experience that will establish a college-going identity for those that didn’t think their future was safe, all the way to them obtaining employment.”

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