A college promise available to everyone

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COMMUNITY REPORT

By Mayor Eric Garcetti

Contributing Columnist

For Daisy Alvarado, it was a dream opportunity: a paid internship at BMG, one of the world’s largest music companies, a chance to gain experience in the music industry and learn about global marketing as a first-year student at West Los Angeles College.

This wasn’t a given for Daisy. Like many students enrolled in L.A. College Promise — our city’s program to make community college free for LAUSD graduates and first-time students — she didn’t have strings to pull.

L.A.’s College Promise program is now the largest in the country, promoting greater equity and making the California Dream a reality for young Angelenos across our city. College Promise students are often the first in their family to seek higher education. Many lack resources, but they have resilience. They have determination and we meet their dreams with possibilities.

Along with tuition, the program includes academic counseling, a free laptop, a bus pass and no-cost travel abroad through our Mayor’s Young Ambassadors program.

Since 2017, more than 20,000 students have taken part in L.A. College Promise. There has been a 56% increase in the number of LAUSD graduates enrolling full-time in our community colleges. And the number of students completing a two-year degree has gone up by over 125%.

College Promise students have flourished. But that was before COVID-19 upended everything, especially for students of color, who make up 95% of the students enrolled in College Promise.

Many of these young people have lost loved ones to this virus. They have needed to take care of a sibling or a grandparent while their mom or dad goes to a job as a front-line worker — or they have a family member who’s been laid off or furloughed, leaving them to put school on hold to help pay the bills.

And work, like school, has become increasingly out of reach this past year. Nationwide, 40% of college students have lost an internship, a job offer or a job during the pandemic.

College Promise students need to earn a paycheck, while building a career and planning for their future. And we know that young people will lead our work to rebuild and reimagine, a stronger, healthier and more equitable Los Angeles coming out of this pandemic.

That’s why we launched the next step in the L.A. College Promise — L.A. College Promise Works, which provides students with wrap-around career services and places them in paid internships in the private, public and nonprofit sectors.

Los Angeles is not only the first big city to expand its College Promise initiative during the pandemic, we’re the first to provide our students with career training and job placement.

With support from the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, we have career coaches in all nine of our community college campuses who have already helped more than 450 students navigate applications and interviews and access services.

In partnership with our city’s Workforce Development system and employers, we have placed more than 200 students into paid internships in a wide range of industries, including media, entertainment, tech, health care, transportation, financial services, and early childhood education.

At its heart, L.A. College Promise is about ensuring all of our young people can begin from the same starting line and compete on a level playing field. It’s about making sure everyone has a shot at a degree and a chance to run as far as their talent and hard work can take them.

Our young people have the power to move us out of this difficult chapter. No matter your birthplace, skin color, zip code or your family’s income, your city is here to make sure you have the tools to fulfill your promise and shape our future.

To make this real for all families and communities, we are focused on equity in both College Promise and College Promise Works. To boost the enrollment of African-American youth, we are working with our partners to ensure outreach programs reach all of our City’s high schools, particularly schools with the highest percentages of Black students.

Everyone deserves the chance to fulfill the promise of higher education. So if you or someone you know is interested in L.A. College Promise, apply for priority registration by May 1. To join the program for the fall semester, go to Lacollegepromise.org.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs monthly in The Wave.