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Education / 2013

CARECENs College Head Start

CARECENs College Head Start

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by CARECEN (Central American Resource Center)

CARECEN’s College Head Start program is designed to monitor participating students from 8th through 12th grade to ensure they are primed for high school graduation, college admission and academic success. According to an LAUSD Policy Bulletin, in 2012 all 9th graders will be required to complete the A-G Requirement in order to graduate from high school. At times, many students have found it difficult to complete this requirement, thus setting up students to either “flunk out” or completely disengage from school and drop out. Admission to CARECEN’s College Head Start program will require family involvement and a commitment to academic and disciplinary guidelines. Program Objective: To create a sustainable high school impact program that is geared to support students from 8th through 12th grade, by monitoring their academic progress and ensuring access to needed academic support to earn a high school diploma and prepare to attend a university, community college, vocational and/or trade school. Program Services: Students enrolled in CARECEN’s College Head Start program will receive the following services: 1. Academic Enrichment/Tutoring; 2. Academic Counseling/Internships 3. College Admissions Guidance 4. College Success and Retention Support 5. Financial Aid Counseling 6. Parent and Family Services 7. Leadership Development 8. Academic /Career Mentoring 9. SAT/ACT and Other Test Preparation Services 10. Scholarship Information. Target Population: College Head Start participants will be composed of: 9th through 12th grade high school students. However, outreach and promotion for the program will begin with middle school students (8th grade students transitioning into 9th grade); academically high and low performing; first generation students to attend college; students/families with limited financial resources, English as a Second Language (ESL) and English Language Learner (ELL) students, and AB540 students. In the first phase of the program, CARECEN will recruit students from Belmont High School’s Small Learning Communities (Belmont). Belmont is one of LAUSD’s most underperforming schools, with a graduation rate of 34%. Because Belmont is within a five-mile radius of CARECEN, we felt it was important to collaborate with them and procure a solid freshman class to participate in College Head Start and ultimately graduate high school and pursue higher academics. Once fully established, the program will include approximately 75 students from 9th to 12th grades. Program Structure: CARECEN has developed its curriculum to address and meet the needs of Pico-Union/Westlake students. CARECEN’s College Head Start model focuses on two areas: 1. Academic: The academic component has students working within a study group that is facilitated by a College Head Start tutor. Students will be grouped with other students who are taking the same course subjects and will collaborate to study the materials. For additional support or upon referral from a College Head Start counselor, students can request one-on-one tutoring with an academic tutor. 2. Leadership: Students will participate in a leadership development program where they will receive the necessary tools to become community leaders and advocates. The following are areas within the leadership program: Community Service: This component focuses on connecting students with their community. Students will work with College Head Start counselors and community leaders to seek-out a project and/or organization that best suits them in an effort to complete their volunteer hours. Given the three Belmont Academies, students will be required to do community projects based on the theme for their academy. In addition, College Head Start counselors will inform and assist students regarding internship opportunities, which they will be able to be incorporate on their resumes. History, Culture and Art: This component will focus on exploring the issue of identity, building students’ self-esteem and confidence, to enable them to graduate from high school. In the end, students will feel they are emotionally prepared for college and will most likely succeed through a seminar series based on Latino immigrant history, culture and the arts. Parents: CARECEN realizes that in order to better serve the needs of our children and youth, parents are a critical partner and have their own set of needs as they work to become better advocates who fight for their child’s education. In response to a great community need, CARECEN developed the Parent Leadership Program. This program educates parents on the basic knowledge regarding the function and structure of the school system in order to support their children’s education and develop an Individual Academic Plan to help students successfully graduate and be ready to attend a college or university. Parents will also learn how to advocate and fight for an equal and quality public education system and improved collaboration between parents and schools.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

For 30 years, CARECEN has worked to empower the Central American and Latino immigrant community to fight for social and economic justice. Part of that fight has been to ensure that the children in our communities receive a quality education and cultural teachings. Through educational reform advocacy, educational programs, and active roles in the design and implementation of new school structures, CARECEN seeks solutions everyday to the obstacles our youth face in achieving success and in the development of the arts and culture component that defines their and that of their families personal struggle. Currently CARECEN offers an Art & Culture Program for children and youth in the Pico Union/Westlake Community, as well as, a dedicated Parent Center, which provides families education around the role of community schools. Each program is based around the need of the community to never lose sight of the roots of their native culture and an in-depth analysis of the continuous struggle for immigrant children to receive a quality education. CARECEN has offered after school programs for youth since 1992; then called, Nueva Generacion (New Generation), the original program was focused on helping youth learn work skills and become familiar with the computer. In 1998, when the agency moved into its 30,000-sq.ft community center it was able to expand the age range of participants as well as the programs offered. From 1998 until today, education programs have included academic enrichment, cultural projects, a summer youth program, parent involvement, field trips and a special focus on being college-ready. With the continuous educational cutbacks on all levels (local, state and federal), schools within a 5-10 mile radius of CARECEN will experience continuous setbacks, for example – the cuts to arts and culture, parent centers and academic enrichment programs. Given this reality, CARECEN feels it is important to open its doors to the community and provide children and youth the best educational experience during their lengthy break from school.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

We are working with neighborhood middle schools and high schools located within 5-mile radius from the organization. We will also seek to collaborate with key universities programs such as student retention departments to assist students and parents in the college transition phase. We have strong partnerships with LAUSD, Belmont High School, University of Southern California (USC), UCLA, Cal State LA and local community colleges.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Success will be evaluated on different levels, from student engagement in workshops to the number of students that graduated from a 4-year college or higher education institution. Children’s achievements cannot be measured on numbers alone because then we would not be celebrating the personal growth of each student. Yet, we track our students from the moment they start in to the day they graduate from college. We have discovered that there is much discussion on high school dropout rates, but there is not a lot of awareness of college dropout in our community. Therefore, we measure success in 3 main sections: 1. Personal and social growth 2. Academic achievement and college readiness 3. College/higher education retention and completion.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

CARECEN’s youth and parent programs benefit the city of Los Angeles by creating a space where families can grow together as a union in pursuing a higher education and creating leaders that are active in addressing issues that affect their community. CARECEN’s education programs strive to create a space where both parents and youth can work together to address student needs that exist at local schools and the community. Students participating in College Head Start will be able to receive the academic, emotional, and financial education support that students are currently lacking in the schools. Given recent changes and cuts students often find themselves confused and unprepared to meet new standards and have nowhere to go for assistance. CARECEN has been in the Pico Union/Westlake community for 30 years and is a trusted organization where immigrant families go for help. College Head Start and the parent programs address these needs and fill the void left by the devastating cuts schools have suffered in recent years. CARECEN’s youth programs give students and their families the tools they need to work and advocate for quality education, the support to strive for college and the leadership training makes them aware of issues affecting their community and how they can work to change it. We believe that families will change and improve Los Angeles. We want to ensure that our youth are better prepared for success and that they have the support of their parents to improve their lives and therefore, their community. CARECEN programs create a safe space for dialogue that helps bridge the gap created by migration, cultural, language and generational differences. It is important not to only have an informed student or to only have an informed parent but both working as a team in building a better future for everyone.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

With every generation of students that we help get into an institute of higher education the face of the Los Angeles student will be changed. Students will learn to take ownership of their education and be proud to be members of our ever-growing city. Students will learn to dream big, work hard, and give back to their community. In 2050 we hope to see a community that actively encourages students in their pursuit of a higher education.