September 29, 2015
High school students in the Long Beach Unified High School District can now earn college credit with an elective course from California State University, Long Beach every Saturday at 6 high schools.
Armando Vazquez-Ramos, a CSULB Chicano and Latino Studies professor came up with the idea of an ethnic studies class at the My Brother’s Keeper Summit last year. The summit was a men’s success initiative program that aimed to support male students of color succeed academically.
“The idea is to create a pathway,” Vazquez-Ramos said. “It can potentially give students as much as 12 units, which is one semester of credit, and in addition to students taking [Advanced Placement] classes, they can have a full year of college credit by the time they start at the university or any place they can potentially start after they graduate.”
Vazquez-Ramos said that the purpose of teaching these courses is to build bridges of communities between ethnic groups and have more kids become more sensitized by having the knowledge and culture and contributions for ethnic groups.
Jasmine Can, a senior psychology major at CSULB, said that offering college credit for elective courses will give the high school students a chance to experience college courses.
“It will prepare students with the expected workload of a university,” Can said. “It will also help students become more aware of other social contexts and factors that are not part of their norm.”
Vazquez-Ramos said that he introduced this model during the spring semester at El Rancho High School and unified the resolution there last summer.
“El Rancho High School was the first school in the state to take this action on their own, which is to exercise the authority that all districts have and create a new requirement for students to graduate,” Vazquez-Ramos said.
Vazquez-Ramos wrote an opinion article to gather support, followed by an article which ran in the Press Telegram in late March. In his article, Vazquez-Ramos said that college-accredited ethnic studies courses are critically important to motivate young people to pursue higher education opportunities that are not currently in their minds.
Superintendent of the LBUSD Chris Steinhauser saw the opportunity and committed to fund 12 classes every semester for the next five years at a cost of $1.25 million, said Vazquez-Ramos.
Vazquez-Ramos said that each class costs $10,000 and that they are being paid for by the school district. The enrollment maximum for each class is 35 students.
“We have a unique relationship at Long Beach between the university, Long Beach City College, the school district and the city,” Vazquez-Ramos said.
Last week, Long Beach City College announced that they would provide a free year’s tuition as a part of the Long Beach college promise, Vazquez-Ramos said.
“These courses will motivate students and expand their curiosity,” Can said. “It will reduce impacted classes in the university by having high school students take those electives earlier and will help graduating seniors be prepared for what will be coming up when they start college.”
For more information about the Long Beach Ethnic Studies Program, visit the Long Beach Schools website.