A university program that helps first-year male Latino and African-American students thrive academically and socially has received a grant to bolster its efforts.
The Los Angeles Scholars Investment Fund, through the California Community Foundation (CCF), has awarded the university’s Project SUCCESS program a $100,000 two-year grant.
Representatives from the foundation presented the program with a check at a ceremony on Jan. 25.
“The California Community Foundation is proud to support Project Success and Cal Poly Pomona, a higher education leader in Los Angeles County,” said Efrain Escobedo, the foundation’s vice president of education and immigration. “Project Success’ mission of expanding postsecondary opportunities for young men of color is exactly the work we seek to support through the Los Angeles Scholars Investment Fund and across our education grant making.”
Byron Howlett, director of the Office of Student Life and Cultural Centers, said he was excited when he heard the program would receive the grant.
“I was honored. In fact, all of us who have been working with Project SUCCESS were thrilled to be acknowledged by such an esteemed foundation such as the California Community Foundation,” Howlett said.
“The CCF does incredible work throughout Los Angeles County in addressing the needs of historically underrepresented students, and we are fortunate that they have invited Project SUCCESS to be one of the grantee partner programs that they believe in and are investing in.”
Howlett created the program, which targets first-year and new transfer students, in fall 2015 after campus data showed that male African-American and Latino students had lower persistence rates in the first and second years than their peers.
Male African-American students persisted at a rate of 78 percent in the first year and 75 percent in year two. Male Latino students had a persistence rate of 86 percent in year one and 64 percent in year two. The two groups also graduated at lower rates. The program connects students with resources and mentors to succeed academically, as well as beyond the classroom.
“Our hope in launching Project SUCCESS was two-fold. First, we wanted to contribute to CPP’s effort to decrease the achievement/opportunity gap between historically underrepresented minority students and their peers,” Howlett said. “Secondly, we wanted to create a program by which men of color could convene to find immediate brotherhood and connections on campus.”
Isaiah Shaw, a first-year economics student, said his mother was researching university programs for people of color when she found information about the university’s Project SUCCESS. Shaw attended an introductory session last spring and decided to join the group.
Project SUCCESS connected Shaw with a student mentor who also became a good friend. Since joining the group, he feels a sense of connection to campus.
“The one thing I really like about Project SUCCESS is they look at me and call me by my first name,” he said. “They don’t need to look at my ID or ask me my name. They know who I am.”
Francisco Martinez, a fifth-year business student, has been involved with Project SUCCESS since its inception. Martinez, who is a lead intern with the program, was working as a student ambassador with Howlett when he was tapped to help.
“The most rewarding aspect is seeing the success of it from its beginnings,” he said. “We faced struggles and adversity. We started out with little to no funding. We were able to persevere and create a program for students who need the help.”
Tim Alexander, coordinator of Project SUCCESS, said that the grant allows the program to become part of a cohort of institutions and organizations in Los Angeles County that also have received funds, paving the way for greater collaboration.
“To me, this is where the educational pipelines and pathways to support student success are going to be created,” he said.
Project SUCCESS also is developing partnerships in the Division of Academic Affairs to ensure support through graduation, he added.
Lea Jarnagin, vice president for the Division of Student Affairs, said these kinds of partnerships help students to thrive.
“Student Success is only possible through intentional collaborations across the campus, bring together the best efforts of multiple areas,” Jarnagin said. “Project Success integrates the classroom experience with critical out of classroom academic support and campus engagement.”
The program, which has 52 students enrolled – 14 African American and 38 Latino – includes seven student interns and 14 faculty and staff mentors. The aim is to broaden the program’s base to include other historically underrepresented student groups, as well working with local middle and high schools to create a pipeline to Cal Poly Pomona, according to Alexander.
“It’s really inspiring to know that our program’s holistic support and strategic partnerships directly impact men of color graduation rates,” he said. “Our male students of color at CPP know people care about them and we advocate for their success.”