LA program helps 1st-generation students plan for college By Zarina Khairzada Los Angeles PUBLISHED 11:13 AM PT Mar. 08, 2023
LOS ANGELES — College isn’t an easy topic to navigate for first-generation Latina high school student Banessa Ramirez. “Throughout this whole time, especially through COVID ... I felt like it was really hard to stay motivated for not only school work in high school, but to remain motivated in college,” Ramirez said. Throughout the pandemic, the Boys and Girls Club of the Los Angeles Harbor kept doors open for students to take part in after-school programs like College Bound, which provides weekly workshops on college applications, scholarships, financial aid and more. Options that helped Ramirez feel like college is within reach. “A big part of going to college, is the fear of not being able to afford it,” she said. About 600 seniors took part in the program during the 2020-2021 school year. Despite the pandemic, 98% of students graduated high school on time, and 95% went on to college in the fall, according to BGCLA latest annual report. Soon, the organization will receive $1 million in federal funding with the help of Rep. Ted Lieu. Mike Lansing, CEO of the organization, said those funds will help expand their current programs to new sites and reach even more teens throughout the harbor. “Our new huge investment is in our Career Bound Workforce Development program, which is helping young people get into internships or employment experience right out of high school,” he said. The program ultimately helped Ramirez figure out what she wanted out of college. "I applied to UCLA, UC Berkeley. I’ve also applied to Cal States, like Cal State Long Beach, Cal State San Diego," she said. "I kind of want to get into a four-year university. But I’m still undecided as to where I want to go." The program began in 2002, when high school graduation rates were at about 50% in the area.