Richard Gordon: Collaboration With LAUSD Sets Inner City High Schoolers on Path to College
Professor of teacher education Richard Gordon has collaborated with the Los Angeles Unified School District to groom ninth graders from Jefferson High School (JHS) in South Los Angeles
for college life. Beginning on Sept. 23 and ending today, JHS students, teachers, counselors and social workers have been visiting California State University, Dominguez Hills for workshops on topics including self-esteem, time management, conflict resolution and looking to the future.
Ways to Enhance Achievement and Resiliency in Education (WE ARE) is based on a program that Gordon established in the summer of 2006 at CSU Dominguez Hills called Transition Institutes. The program, which has been hosted by the university in 2006, 2008, and 2009, took place in the summer months. Gordon felt that conducting the program in the fall semester would be more beneficial for the students and faculty of JHS.
“We wanted to get them right when they started school,” he says. “We also have their teachers more intimately involved in the event than before. The data we got from last year showed that [teacher participation] was a really important boost to building their long term rapport with the program.”
On Wednesdays and Thursdays, students and faculty would arrive at CSU Dominguez Hills for information sessions and breakout discussions on planning for college, navigating administrative issues such as financial aid, finding a major, and social skills. On Fridays, the students were taken from JHS to Will Rogers State Historic Park where they participated in exercises that taught caring, equality, social justice, and environmental awareness.
Olga Jurado, a psychiatric social worker at JHS, says that both her school and CSU Dominguez Hills share the responsibility of “getting them to start thinking about going to college and setting goals for themselves.”
“It’s also about building human relationships,” she adds. “Bringing them here is a great way for them to relate to our teachers and all [JHS] adults, and among themselves, with their peers.”
Rikeisha Eaton, JHS freshman, says that along with learning study and organization skills, she met students that she ordinarily would not have spoken to on her home campus.
“They told us not to study at the last minute because then you’ll be cramming stuff into your brain and you can’t remember all of it when it’s time to take the test,” she says. “Also, [the sessions] helped us see how many of us are alike and how we’re different.”
Gordon says that one of the most effective portions of the program is the presentation made by Associated Students, Inc.
“ASI comes in and gives the students a pep talk,” he says. “From the [ASI] president to the people working in the student union, they really get the kids charged up.”
Seeing college students that they can identify with is a boost for the inner city youth. Gui Morales, who has taught in LAUSD for 35 years, says, “It’s a great thing, exposing them to careers, to study skills, to people from our community who are doing well. When they walk around [the CSU Dominguez Hills] campus, they can see kids from our high school who are actually attending this university, which makes their own goals of going to college obtainable.”
Gordon is hopeful that some of the high school students who participated in Transition Institutes will enroll at CSU Dominguez Hills in the future. He says that the program is a benefit to his own students, many of whom aspire to teach in underserved communities. He described how the experience affected one of his students who currently teaches mathematics in a charter school.
“She says she was so thankful to have contact with the kids,” he says. “In the breakout sessions, we talk about identity, conflict, and peace building. Those things were eye-openers to her. So when she went to teach high school, it was not as difficult.”
- Joanie Harmon
Photo above: Richard Gordon, professor of teacher education (in back at right) with students and faculty from Jefferson High School. L-R: Laura Alvarado, assistant principal of the Academy of Business and Communications; Alan Touzan, psychiatric social worker;
Michael Garcia, freshman; Rikeisha Eaton, freshman; Gui Morales, teacher; Olga Jurado, psychiatric social worker;
Heidi Juarez, freshman; and Hicela Armenta, freshman.
Photo by Joanie Harmon