When the last signature dried on the “promise agreement,” college-ready high school seniors in Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) Local District-South were officially guaranteed admission into California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH).
The university hosted the agreement signing in the Loker Student Union ballroom on April 8. The signing represents the first time LAUSD has provided its high school graduates within one of its local districts guaranteed enrollment to a university. There to witness the “historic” occasion were more than 100 LAUSD students, faculty, staff and administrators from both LAUSD and CSUDH, and local media.
“You [university presidents] do this job because you want to be a part of something that makes a difference, and this promise program will make a difference to students, to the district, and to this university,” said CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan before turning his comments to the students in the audience. “Seeing you succeed makes us all proud to do this job.”
Local District-South includes 20 high schools and approximately 4,700 studentsand in an area that stretches from the 10 Freeway south near downtown Los Angeles, to Long Beach and San Pedro.
When asked if by chance every senior in Local District-South were to qualify for admission under the promise agreement would CSUDH be able to admit them, Hagan said, “It would be a great problem to have.”
“We’re not just guaranteeing admission; it’s about you students keeping in mind that college is a part of your future,” Hagan added. “Our part is to guarantee admission, but you students have to do the work. If you do the work, trust in yourself, trust in your teachers, and trust in those who support you, you will then have a great choice to make about what you want to do with your lives.”
Along with Hagan, signers of the promise agreement included Christopher Downing, superintendent of LAUSD Local District-South; Michelle King, LAUSD’s superintendent of schools; Richard Vladovic, an LAUSD Board of Education member; and George J. McKenna, vice president of LAUSD’s Board of Education.
LAUSD has named the promise program “South Up,” which stands for the Local District-South and “university pathways.” It guarantees priority admission to CSUDH for students who meet A-G admission requirements.
“Today we celebrate pathways—we have a pathway from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade—but now that pathway extends beyond to college,” said King. “We will support, encourage and promote students from Pre-K all the way through [high school] graduation so that they will have a seat in a college and can persist and graduate. So today is historic. You students now know that if you meet the requirements, that you have a place.”
South Up will be available to all the Local District-South college-ready students, but it also places an emphasis on creating pathways for students who want to study science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) in college.
In addition, the university and LAUSD will host an annual job fair to place CSUDH students majoring in STEM fields and art (STEAM) as teachers in Local District-South schools that have traditionally been difficult to staff.
We are extremely proud of our work with Cal State Dominguez to create this pathway for the students of Local District-South. Our local district exemplifies the diversity of L.A. Unified,” Downing said. “With our focus on STEAM, we feel strongly that this partnership will ensure a bright future for our students and benefit the school communities.”
LAUSD is CSUDH’s number one partner of teacher education and graduate education programs, according to Kamal Hamdan, Wallis Annenberg Endowed Professor and director of CSUDH’s Center for Innovation in STEM Education (CISE). CSUDH and LAUSD have also partnered on numerous teacher education and science grant projects over the past several years, totaling more than $42 million with other grants “in the works.”
“This is the right time to do right by Los Angeles students. What the promise agreement means to me and to the thousands of students and their parents in Local District-South is access, which means it offers hope and opportunity,” said Hamdan. “It offers inspiration for students who are hoping to take advantage of this opportunity, and Cal State Dominguez Hills is the perfect university to do this because it allows students to dream and achieve their dreams.”
Several LAUSD and CSUDH students also shared inspirational remarks and praise for South Up during the program, including Chidi Oduma, who is majoring in mathematics education and minoring in Spanish at CSUDH. She is also a Women in STEM Education (WiSE) scholar at the university.
Oduma, who graduated from Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy (HTPA) in Local District-South, shared how her high school “nurtured” her interest in teaching and prepared her for the rigors college level work, as well as a few touching moments from her time at HTPA.
“To make sure I had no doubt [about becoming a teacher], I was the first recipient of the Elaine Lopez Scholarship, awarded to qualified students pursuing a career in teaching,” said Oduma, as she unsuccessfully tried to hold back tears. “It was at our senior dinner when the Lopez family announced my name as the awardee. I still remember squeezing my friend’s hand so hard that I began to shake. All my emotions decided to unite and unleash a river of beautiful tears that my eyes have never seen before. It was in that moment that I realized the Lopez family saw a piece of Ms. Lopez in me.”