LBCC and USC Receive Nearly $1 Million to Provide Higher Education Access for Gang-associated Youth

Long Beach City College and the University of Southern California have received a competitive grant of nearly $1 million to launch a program that will provide educational opportunities for gang-associated youth.

Across the span of three years, the federal government will fund $990,00 towards this program, which has been dubbed LBCC Phoenix Scholars. 

“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 Uduak-Joe Ntuk, the Board of Trustees President for Long Beach Community College District (LBCCD). “Studies indicate bleak numbers for gang youth to attend college, often due to high school experiences that foster a school-to-prison pipeline.”

The U.S. Department of Education will provide funds for this grant through the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). This award financial program was a nation-wide competitive grant for schools all over the country. 

“We provided a really comprehensive model of how we were going to support gang-involved people from the ages 16 to 24,” said Adrian Huerta, an assistant professor of education for USC’s Rossier School of Education. “I’m sure myself being involved was probably extra points in the review of this grant.”

Huerta is a “nationally-recognized expert on college access, equity and gang-associated and system-impacted youth,” according to the press release.

The assistant professor of education has released peer-reviewed academic journals which focus on the research of the impact of gangs in Latino male students.

Huerta will work directly with LBCC as co-principal investigator for the LBCC Phoenix Scholars program. This is the first time LBCC and USC will collaborate together in a post-secondary access education program.

“Our biggest goal is, if we are able to attract and recruit two to three hundred people throughout this three year grant, we can really change a generation of people,” Huerta said.

The LBCC Phoenix Scholars program will target gang-involved high schoolers and provide a pre-college experience. Set to launch sometime this summer according to Huerta, a workshop will introduce Long Beach high schoolers to different college majors and have counselors from the community college there to speak with them.

Students will also have access to social work interns who could help them find resources or support to work through any trauma they might have. 

“This is an exciting opportunity to contribute and provide a new horizon for youth who did not initially have college in their sight. I look forward to this USC Rossier and LBCC initiative,” said Pedro Noguera, the dean of USC’s Rossier School of Education.

By Hannah Shields