College Project Makes Strides with $5 Million Award
Blu Educational Foundation
By Dianne Anderson
Excursions and field trips, workshops and year-round events are just some of the exciting prospects planned through the Blu Educational Foundation College Exodus Project with its fully revamped college and career advising outreach.
Earlier this month, Blu received a symbolic $5 million check from Assemblymember James Ramos from the 2022-23 state budget, marking a milestone for what the organization plans to accomplish toward helping at-risk students with workforce skills, college retention and graduation.
At the ceremony earlier this month, Dina Walker spoke about the efficacy of the college project and described the bumps in her own educational journey. It took her longer to complete her degree, despite being a bright student.
She said the program wants to make sure that any young person that’s coming from San Bernardino, from Rialto, the county and the region has a trajectory of opportunity.
“People didn’t give up on me and this is what this program has to do to make sure that nobody gives up on kids regardless of what their academic record is, regardless of their parent’s circumstances, their economic circumstances, the neighborhoods they live in doesn’t matter,” said Walker, president and CEO of BLU Educational Foundation.
M’Cheala Prince said they are thrilled to help students get a better understanding to grasp the college application process, which kicks off next month. With the new funding, she said great programs are planned for the community.
“[There is] Senior Bootcamp Programming every third Saturday of the month and we are looking forward to providing support to students and families as they venture into higher education,” said Prince, BLU College Success Coordinator.
With their new funding, the project is expanding to provide vital resources to help more families. She said their main concern is that students feel supported, recognized, and prepared for their transition to college.
Civic engagement and advocacy is another strong driver of their programs with a special outreach focus on policy, advocating up to the state capitol level.
Elections are just around the corner, and Prince said their organization is also putting a lot of energy into increasing community voter engagement.
One project, in partnership with the California Black Power Network, is reaching out to raise awareness of the issues at various levels of government, providing information and resources to the community as the November Election draws near.
“Our involvement in the coalition seeks to strengthen Black voices, voting power, and to change the lives of Black Californians within the Inland Empire and statewide,” said Prince in an email.
Their College Exodus Project comes by way of efforts of the College Success Initiative, which mainly provides services to high school seniors. Their program and projects also look to increase their case management and services for students within their partnered schools.
Boosting social-emotional support for students with opportunities to interact and develop the necessary skills, and networking to build up positive relationships in college is a priority. She said they continue making strides to increase partnerships.
Former Community Eligibility Provision students also praised the program’s services.
“As a previous CEP student, I am excited that BLU continues to transform their efforts regarding college access and advising. Our practices and programs intend to uplift, service, and assist students to ensure their matriculation and graduation from college,” said Olani LaBeaud, College Access and Community Engagement Advisor.
“I’m really excited to be able to expand our work to more campuses and directly work one on one with even more students! It’s always fulfilling to listen to a student tell you about their academic aspirations and help them outline how to successfully reach them,” said Abigail Dugbartey, College Access and Community Engagement.
Among the program’s many adjacent services, they offer field trips to explore the wilderness, and local public lands and landmarks that have a Black History connection. Their Leadership Development trains in areas of civic engagement, African American Parent Leadership, Black Public Officials Leadership Training and Student leadership. They also have Soul Sisters and Soul Brothers leadership training for youth 14-21 years.
“We also offer services for students through Black history programming and leadership development during the summer for students grade Four through College,” she said.
While the pandemic has been hard on students with statewide reports of drops in test scores in Math and English, she said their new funding is a great local solution to help their project bridge the learning gap.
“BLU bridges and fills the gap by providing college and career advising, and parent involvement services to ensure that students are supported in all aspects of their college-going efforts,” she said.
For parents and students that want to learn more about BLU’s programming see www.bluedfoundation.org and select “College Advising Help.”
Among the foundation’s many programs and projects,