LBCC Students Get Ready for Male Success Initiative
By Dianne Anderson
Students will have one less thing to worry about this year at Long Beach City College, what with all the free food, free laptops, free transportation, all to help them keep their minds focused on what’s important – their studies.
The clock is ticking on financial aid FAFSA or California Dream Act application March 2 deadline, but there is some wiggle room for latecomers.
Yvonne Gutierrez-Sandoval said all students are encouraged to get their applications in, and sooner is better. One incentive with FASFA is that those who get in early may receive more funding.
“At LBCC, students who are first-time, full-time, California Residents who complete the FAFSA or California Dream Act Application can receive the first year of college free of enrollment fees, even if they missed the March 2nd deadline,” said Gutierrez-Sandoval, Dean of Enrollment Services.
February 6 is the last day for registration for classes, but she said those who complete the FAFSA or Dream Act application will still be considered for all forms of available financial aid.
“Submitting a FAFSA or California Dream Act application prior to March 2nd can be especially helpful to students to allow them to be awarded funds from Federal and/or State sources that may have limited funding. Additionally, state grants, such as Cal Grants require financial aid applicants to meet the March 2nd deadline to be considered for the grant,” she said.
Dr. Eric Becerra, who oversees Social Justice Intercultural Center on campus, said they are partnering with several service agencies to make it easier for students to access extra resources on both campuses, Pacific Coast and LBCC.
Their Basic Needs Office, led by Justin Mendez, helps with housing resources, transportation and food assistance. On campus, the Viking Vault has an inventory of groceries that students can pick up to prepare a meal at home.
“We have Grab and Go that’s ready to consume right now,” he said. “If you’re a student with 15 minutes between classes and you’re hungry, you come through and pick up a snack. Just grab it and go, no questions asked.”
Becerra, who is a first-generation college graduate, said their Male Success Initiative program is also working to get their most vulnerable students to a place of stability by letting them know it’s okay to ask for help.
MSI was created because their college data indicates that men of color tend to access higher education at lower rates than their white female counterparts. They also achieve course success with a complete degree and transfer to a university at lower rates than their white male or Black female counterparts.
“As men of color, we’re socialized to believe that we have to be 100% self-sufficient and that asking for help is a sign of weakness,” he said. “We reframe this not as a sign of weakness, but help our students understand that nobody achieved anything great ever completely by themselves.”
Recruitment for Black males has also been intentional. Representation on campus is about 8% Black, and he said they are pushing for about double that within the MSI.
“We want at least 16% of the MSI population to identify as Black. We don’t want them to experience the same isolated [issues that] ‘I’m one of the few’ types of sentiment they might feel at large institutions within the program itself.”
When the men come into the program, they fill out a short questionnaire about whether they have access to a steady WiFi, a reliable computer, or if they’ve struggled to pay the rent in the last six months.
A lot of students, about half, that come through MSI run the gamut of need, and in any given year experience one or multiple barriers.
“Do they have housing, food, and transportation? Do they need a hotspot and Chromebook, all the way to mental health. Have you noticed any dramatic changes in your attitude difference in your attitude so we can connect them to mental health services,” he said.
The MSI is designed for first time full time students at LBCC, which includes summer programming, and there is a lot of energy put toward matriculation, helping students with registration, financial aid, and connecting them with counselors.
“[It’s] a combination of helping students access the aid, while also teaching and helping them create an educational plan to put them on the right path to achieve the goal in a timely efficient manner,” he said.
Several areas hold men back from thinking about higher education. Some may be dealing with financial obligations and feel they have no time for school. Some are taking care of parents, taking care of siblings, or older family members, which take priority.
But he tells them if they can hold off full-time employment for just two years until they nail their education, it will bring them more money, but it can impact the entire family structure.
“Not only that, education becomes a family tradition, it increases the standard of living for the person receiving the degree and the people around the individual. It becomes an expectation of their children.”
Becerra said MSI helps build male support systems, and that the relationships formed with the staff are game changers.
“Once you feel connected with someone, and you feel like someone is going to notice if you stop attending, you’re more likely to attend,” he said.
For more information on basic needs and food, see https://lbcc.instructure.com/courses/50607
Link to FAFSA application: https://studentaid.gov/fafsa-app/ROLES
For the Black Student Resource Guide, see