learn / 2014

Mission 3.0: Empowering Leaders on the Field and In the Classroom

Mission 3.0: Empowering Leaders on the Field and In the Classroom

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by IN THE CITY, INC.

We will match student-athletes with a yearlong mentor, who will help imagine new futures for the students and devise a plan to get there.

Please describe yourself.

Solo actor (just us on this project!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

We will match student-athletes with a yearlong mentor, who will help imagine new futures for the students and devise a plan to get there.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a population of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Abraham Lincoln High School in Northeast Los Angeles

What is your idea/project in more detail?

In the City (ITC) seeks to launch a yearlong mentorship program with student-athletes at Lincoln High School. Like many schools on the Eastside, LHS students are critically underserved in terms of academic guidance. Moreover, in Lincoln Heights, where only 5.5% of adults over the age of 25 are college graduates, most parents are not equipped to help their children become college-ready. Our mentorship program is designed to build trusting partnerships with LHS student-athletes and their families, as they become advocates for their education and their community year-round. Mentors will help students keep track of their progress (A-G requirements, for example), while broadening their vision of a future for themselves and for their community.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

ITC was founded in 2008 to develop leaders in urban communities through empowering families, building support networks, and improving academic achievement. We began in Lincoln Heights, one of the most underserved communities in all of LA County, and a partnership was quickly established with the local high school, Abraham Lincoln High School (LHS). In 2010, “Mission 3.0” was created to specifically challenge LHS student-athletes, who are historically some of the lowest academic achievers at LHS. Through collaboration with the coaches, ITC provided mandatory tutoring sessions for the student-athletes, pushing them to strive beyond the minimum 2.0 GPA required to play. The success of our “Mission 3.0” program relied on that collaboration. In this sense, much of the foundation for the success of our program has already been implemented at the institutional level. Our biggest push will be to establish a foundation for sustained achievement with our students and their families.

ITC will start by matching students from the JV Football team with our mentors, who are trained to provide guided and up-to-date academic support. The first 10 weeks of the program, which will get students to rethink their perceptions of their education and their community, will coincide with the fall sports season. Our mentoring sessions will be planned around game and practice times—in other words, mentoring will be integrated into the athletics program. At the end of those 10 weeks, those who continue with the mentoring program will meet with their mentor weekly, providing student-athletes with much-needed structure even beyond the season. In addition to providing general guidance on the path to college, mentors will also teach their students very specific skills that will be necessary to get through college and eventually graduate. Workshops on topics as diverse as financial aid, SAT/ACT tests, and time management are part of our program.

ITC will also hire a Parent Advocate who will be in charge of organizing parents and guardians of the team. Though a committee of parents will be created during the fall sports season, the role of the Parent Advocate will be to sustain parent organization throughout the year. Our vision is for parents to be provided a platform for organizing around the issues they believe need to be addressed in our schools. As our committee becomes stronger, so will our mentoring program, which will rely on heavier parent involvement during the off-season.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LEARN today? In 2050?

The path to college for many of our students is akin to a long, dark hallway. For many of them, the thought of walking down it has not crossed their minds at all. For many others, a plethora of fears grips them each time they venture to the entrance of that hallway. It feels out of reach. It is too dark; too easy to get lost, and too easy to never make it to the other side. These are fears that paralyze.

Our program will make LA the BEST place to LEARN today by directly addressing the sense of hopelessness that characterizes public education in our most underserved communities. The approach is two-pronged—to illuminate the future that might exist at the end of the hallway, and to embolden students (and their families) to make it through to the other side.

Our program will undoubtedly contribute to higher graduation rates, as well as more LHS students attending and graduating from college. More importantly, however, our program will train students to be engaged in their community, to recognize what is at stake in taking ownership of their education. Students will learn to take the fears that previously paralyzed them, and to turn them into motivation.

As we grow, our first move will be to partner with the feeder middle school to LHS so that we can begin to support parents and students even before high school. Eventually, we see our program expanding to neighboring high schools that face many of the same issues in preparing students to be active participants in their schooling.

It is our vision that by 2050, students throughout Los Angeles will not only have access to the resources and support necessary to get to college, but will also have the skill set needed to graduate and move forward. Parents will be informed, empowered, and organized. Moreover, students and their families will see themselves as part of a larger community, understanding the role that each of them has in making Los Angeles the best place to LIVE, LEARN, CONNECT, CREATE, and PLAY.

Whom will your project benefit?

The most immediate beneficiaries of our project will be the student-athletes of Lincoln High School (LHS). Only 38% of Lincoln students and 29% of LEMA students (the pilot Media/Arts school that shares its campus and sports program with LHS) are on track to complete their A-G requirements with a C or better. For a student body made up of over 1300 students, there is only one college counselor. Over 95% of our students are categorized as economically disadvantaged and participate in the federal school meal program, and the majority of our students’ parents have not received a college education (only 5.5% of adults in Lincoln Heights have earned a college degree). All of these conditions contribute to a learning environment in which college-readiness is the exception rather than the rule.

Our ultimate goal is to transform the sports culture in Lincoln Heights to one in which college-readiness is considered just as vital to team success as physical training. Of course, the athletics program is just the start. As a heavier college-going culture is established at LHS, students outside of the athletics program will benefit from college-readiness being normalized on campus.

Parents of our student-athletes will also benefit from our project. The Parent Committee, headed by our Parent Advocate, will be an important resource for parents in learning how to best advocate for their children. In a preliminary meeting with parents of the JV Football team, we heard from many parents who expressed frustration with the difficulty in establishing communication with teachers and administrators. Our project will serve as an avenue for parents to become more involved, more informed, and more connected.

As mentioned above, LHS is severely understaffed in terms of college counselors. Our project will immediately alleviate some of the pressure put on LHS’ college counselor by getting students to start planning for life after high school as early as 9th grade. We aim for students to become their own best advocates, to get them to take ownership of their schooling. Teachers will also benefit from having students who are more engaged, curious, and motivated.

Finally, Los Angeles will benefit when the students and parents if its most undeserved communities are provided the necessary tools to participate in sustainable community engagement.

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

ITC currently collaborates with Abraham Lincoln High School. We work closely with administrators, coaches, teachers, and the parents of the community every day to ensure program effectiveness. Dialogue regarding implementing Mission 3.0 at surrounding middle and high schools has begun, and it is only a matter of funding and time before ITC’s Mission 3.0 program infiltrates the LAUSD. EduCare provides our program with afterschool snacks necessary during our tutoring and mentoring sessions (http://educarefoundation.com/after-school-programs).

We also collaborate with professionals within Los Angeles to better enhance the delivery of our services, through avenues of guest speaking, workshop facilitation, and tutoring and mentoring. These individuals include professors from Cal State systems, local pastors, pro bono lawyers, and financial consultants from highly ranked corporations.

Moving forward, ITC will strengthen existing partnerships as well as establish new collaborations with surrounding colleges and universities, mentoring agencies, and parent advocacy agencies in East Los Angeles. These partnerships will be successful insofar as we see each other as vital in holistically impacting the trajectory of lives in East Los Angelenos; we can not view each other as competition, but must be able to share and utilize resources conducive to growth.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Learn” metrics?

  • Percentage of community college students completing a certificate, degree, or transfer-related program in six years
  • District-wide graduation rates
  • HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math
  • Academic Performance Index scores
  • College matriculation rates

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Our project is not designed to simply get students through high school, but to transform attitudes and perceptions about education that often paralyze students on their path to college.

Graduation rates, API scores, and student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math will all rise as students are given the attention and guidance of a mentor, in conjunction with In the City’s tutoring sessions. As students begin to take more ownership of their education, they will become better students—more attentive, curious, and open to learning.

Furthermore, the skills and knowledge base that our mentoring program emphasizes prepares our students to get into college and graduate. With the price of a college degree ever-rising, it’s absolutely necessary that students be informed about the college process as early as possible. Our students will be exposed to the various types of colleges that exist (UCs, Cal States, community colleges, etc.) and the opportunities a student will encounter at each. Students will be trained on the subject of financial aid, on the critical difference between need-based and merit-based scholarships/grants, between private and federal student loans. These lessons will be invaluable in making sure students are equipped to develop college plans that won’t leave them buried in debt and no more certain of their futures.

Finally, our project builds a support network of parents, mentors, coaches, and peers that is crucial to a student’s success. Many students from underserved communities who make it to college often drop out due to a lack of support. As the students of our pilot project graduate from high school, we will continue to support them and track their progress through college, easing the difficult transition into higher education and ensuring graduation.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

ITC will pull progress reports and grades of these student-athletes (mentees) every 5 weeks. This will ensure prompt intervention, where needed. We will evaluate each student’s citizenship, GPA, and when applicable, track graduation and college entry rates.

We will also implement a pre- and post- youth questionnaire that captures his/her perspective/outlook on life, personal views on oneself, and goals.

We will also implement a mentor program evaluation at the middle and end of the year.

Each youth will complete a mentor evaluation form twice a year.

Each mentor will complete a mentee evaluation twice a year.

Lastly, we will engage the parents in a parent survey to evaluate their child’s behavior twice a year.

These evaluations and surveys serve as continuous feedback loops that are critical to a successful mentoring program. Additionally, receiving feedback from program participants will promote greater interest and ownership.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

What ITC has found is that once a student-athlete’s respective sports season has ended, his/her grades will plummet. The motivating factor that remains is the extracurricular activity itself. Our original Mission 3.0 program structure is not enough to influence changes in a youth’s deeply-seated habits, attitudes, behavior, and beliefs, particularly in light of the neighborhood in which they come.

Interestingly, in speaking with large and proven agencies that work specifically on college readiness and college access, it is clear that if students have a consistent adult who holds them accountable to completing their school assignments, taking the right classes (A-G requirements), and are able to advocate for their needs, they will have naturally self-created a road to reach college!

These two truths have informed our decision in piloting a yearlong academic mentoring program, whereby the student-athletes will be given a mentor that follows up with them weekly on their academic tasks and goals, focusing on both the day-to-day and big picture/longterm goals.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

ITC’s Mission 3.0 program has been in existence since the 2010-2011 academic year. In these last 4 years, not only have we solidified and increased the quality of our program, we have also seen the far-reaching effects the program has made on our students, families, and community. We are well-poised to add this mentoring component to our Mission 3.0 program because of its success over the last four years.

With this grant, we will have the funds needed to hire the right people to carry the mentoring program throughout the year.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

Having effective mentors and mentoring relationships are the foundation of any successful mentoring program. ITC is committed to completing its due diligence to best match mentors to mentees and provide the utmost quality of services. Our Program Managers will be providing ongoing, weekly supervision with all of our mentors. Additionally, we will host monthly group mentor trainings. However, effective mentoring is contingent upon many factors, some of which will be out of our control. Not all mentors will naturally be gifted and/or skilled with “effective” mentoring skills. Thus, we anticipate having to spend a lot of time troubleshooting and training; more specifically, the program will be impacted heavily if a mentor has to end their commitment prematurely. Additionally, recruiting and securing enough mentors for all of our student-athletes will certainly be an ongoing challenge. As it stands, finding enough quality, committed mentors has been our greatest challenge.

Similarly, student retention and engagement will prove a challenge. We anticipate that students may not keep to their word and drop off of the program, whether formally (or officially) or not. Sustaining an adolescent’s commitment to a yearlong program will, understandably, pose challenges. We will implement a “contract agreement,” outlining very clear expectations and commitments of the program.

Secondly, though parent engagement is a hallmark of our program, we expect that not all parents will be as enthusiastic, available, or positive about parent participation. We are committed to being persistent in our parent outreach and will hire and train the best Parent Advocates available to do this well. We are also certain that allowing the parents to be our teachers, and providing them a platform in which to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas, will lend to greater trust and engagement.

What resources does your project need?