Originally published by: CSULB COLLEGE OF CONTINUING AND PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION
Expanding Opportunities, Annual Report 2015-2016
Usually, it’s hard to get excited to go to school on Saturday mornings. But for many highs school students in the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD), the chance to get tuition-free college credit while expanding their minds has spurred them to sit attentively in class over the course of several weekends this past year.
Originally launched in the fall of 2015, the Long Beach Ethnic Studies Program (LB-ESP) is a collaboration between LBUSD and CSULB that started with one professor’s personal mission and soon grew to receive wide support from students, parents, and school district officials.
CSULB Professor Armando Vazquez-Ramos initially began teaching his Introduction to Chicano and Latino Studies course in selected area high schools, providing a new understanding of important social, political, economic, and historic aspects of the Chicano/Latino experience in the U.S. An article about the class was feature in the Long Beach Press-Telegram and garnered widespread support from the public as well as LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser, who soon proposed The Long Beach College Promise: $1.2 million to fund 12 classes per semester over a five-year period.
As the project’s coordinator, Vazquez-Ramos spearheaded efforts to develop curriculum, employ faculty, and produce a textbook-sized syllabus and reader, U.S. Diversity and the Ethnic Experience – all in just four months. The response was tremendous: nearly 2,000 students and parents attended the initial class orientations, with 750 students registering for 420 open enrollment spots. That led to over 300 students being put on a waiting list for the Spring 2016 semester.
Now in its second year, LB-ESP has expanded to 15 classes form 9:00 am to 12:00 noon on Saturdays at six LBUSD high schools, including summer sessions. The subject matter has also grown beyond Chicano and Latino Studies and now includes Africana, Asian and Asian-American, and American Indian courses.
“Our students and their families express great appreciation for the Ethnic Studies program,” LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser said. “The program has quickly become a success, with high levels of participation. That’s a testament to the demand for these important courses, and to our school district’s enviable partnership with the university and its College of Continuing and professional Education.”
Professor Vazquez-Ramos continues to provide this expertise to help schools develop a comprehensive Ethnic Studies curriculum, as taught by their own high school teachers. The collaborations are being presented at academic conferences as well as in a new documentary film, Legacy and Leadership: The Long Beach Ethnic Studies Program. Plans are underway for this cutting-edge educational model to be replicated by other partnerships between colleges and local school districts across the country.
“I really loved the course because personally, I am Mexican, and in my classes I never really felt that I was taught anything of my culture that I could relate to. So while taking the class, I was actually able to learn more about me as a person, where my own biases came from, and how intersectional all minority groups are,” Jackie Piña, Lakewood High School student.
“Going into this class, I was kind of shy, I wasn’t open to other people’s cultures, I was really trying to learn about mine a little bit more. But [the class] opened my mind, it broadened my perspective of other people’s cultures,” Shanon Mendoza, Wilson High School student.
Download the Full CCPE Report here: Expanding Opportunities Annual Report 2015-2016