Blu Educational Foundation Supports Students, Interns
By Dianne Anderson
Year after year, too many interns to count return to the Blu Educational Foundation. Some are looking for a real job, and some just want to give back to help others make their way through higher education.
It’s all a circle.
M’Cheala Prince said that their interns often come back to help push through initiatives and public policy goals, which is another strong focus for the organization.
Last summer, one of their most important policy campaigns “Leave No Money on the Table” was to make sure that students would complete their financial aid and can get access to the money that is already there waiting.
“If they don’t apply they’ll never know. They’ll never attend if they don’t know that money is available to them,” said Prince, Senior College Prep Advisor with the Blu Educational Foundation.
Most people in communities of color qualify for college financial aid, and she believes that everyone should apply.
“We ensure all of our students apply for financial aid no matter where the student thinks they fit. We’ve seen many times a lot of students that think they won’t qualify, actually end up qualifying,” she said.
Through their College Exodus Project, students also get help with career access and support services in applying to accredited colleges and universities.
“It’s all in the hope that they come back and pour that back into their communities. They do just that,” she said.
Among the nonprofit’s many higher education projects, civic engagement with advocacy is another strong driver of their programs. The Blu Foundation works closely with several organizations in the community and at the state capitol to achieve policy change.
One of the bills they worked on before the pandemic was to introduce students in high school to financial aid and make it a requirement for graduation.
“It’s so students can apply and go to college because it is a huge barrier to college access is that students believe they don’t have the funds,” she said.
Interns also develop projects around policy and advocacy related to public lands. Other aspects focus on career pathways. She said their doors are always open for students to connect and get direction.
This year, they were able to help four interns, but originally she said 14 had applied. Most were unable to follow through due to scheduling, or through the pandemic, they had to work to support their families.
“We always tell them to keep in touch because there is always a place here for them,” she said. “This is like a home almost, they can always come and we pour into them as well.”
Like everywhere else, much of the past year’s college component of the program has been working through Zoom.
Grayson Bell, program assistant with the nonprofit, said that they will continue working with local schools this upcoming year, but no one is quite sure what that might look like under the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“Our students coming back will be allowed on a kind of hybrid schedule. It changes week to week in terms of what our work in the schools will look like, that’s why we’re so focused on policy,” he said.
They will work with what they have, which is a downtown office, continue their meetings among staff, holding small events and workshops.
But he is especially excited about their “Let’s Take it Outside” initiative, a program focused on learning about environmental justice in the community. Typically, he said advocates don’t view environmental issues as social justice at its core.
“We branched more into the environment that we work with, the minority communities, the air quality, the pollution, water quality. It’s really our environmental initiative which feeds into our civic engagement work,” he said.
While the pandemic has been the worst of the past year and a half, in other ways technology outreach has helped them expand. They are now partnering with many school districts, helping students across San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
Their programming is all about access to college and financing, equity and policy change.
“You can walk them through an application, but if the policy isn’t working in their favor there’s only so much you can do, it kind of stops there,” he said. “You can get a kid accepted into college but how do you ensure that that kid stays. It goes back to policy and financial aid.”
For more information, see http://bluedfoundation.org/ or call (909) 685-9995