How One High School Gives Other Urban High Schools Hope for the Future

A new report has everyone talking about the Foshay Learning Center, a LAUSD high school, for being the top feeder to USC’s incoming 2016 class with 19 students joining the Trojan family. The Foshay Learning Center is leading the charts in acceptances by beating out many private schools. According to U.S. News, The Foshay Learning Center, a California Distinguished School, is ranked 64th within California, and is performing well above the district’s and state’s overall average. With a ninety-nine percent graduation rate and a 100% minority enrollment, the Foshay Learning Center represents hope for our urban communities. In addition, it’s success sheds light on the power and impact of partnerships and the creation of multiple pathways of opportunity.

Before highlighting the role of USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI), described as “a rigorous, seven-year pre-college enrichment program designed to prepare low-income neighborhood students for admission to a college or university,” it is important to put into perspective the grandeur of the Foshay Learning Center’s feat. Serving almost 2,000 students, in grades K-12, with over eighty-percent Latino students and almost twenty-percent African American students, the Foshay Learning Center can easily be another high school in our under-resourced community barely getting by. With over eighty percent of students qualifying as economically disadvantaged, the school serves in one of the highest-need areas in Los Angeles. Despite the financial barriers and an eighteen percent proficiency gap between the Foshay Learning Center and the state among disadvantaged students, it is through the strong partnership with USC’s NAI, that USC has been able to not only connect with the community but also build a pipeline to USC for Foshay Learning Center students.

Becoming the top feeder has not been a coincidence. According to the Los Angeles Times, “it’s the product of a collaboration between the school and the university that has lasted more than 25 years.” Through the Neighborhood Academic Initiative, which predominantly serves students from low-income backgrounds and under-resourced communities, students are provided guidance, counseling and enrichment opportunities that are meant to help shape them and prepare them to be college-ready and competitive well-rounded scholars. Students who are accepted to USC get a full-ride scholarship minus loans.

The Neighborhood Academic Initiative encompasses three components: the USC Pre-College Enrichment Academy, the Family Development Institute and the Retention Program. The academy offers enhanced classes at USC on weekday mornings, the Saturday Academy, after-school tutoring, remedial and enrichment sessions, workshops on time management and study skills, PSAT and SAT preparation, cultural field trips and recreational activities. Students begin the program in the 6th grade and attend through high school.

Still, only twenty-four percent of the freshman class at USC come from underrepresented ethnic groups, with thirteen percent of them being Latino and only five percent African American. Only 12.5 percent of the study body comes from disadvantaged economic backgrounds despite the fact that USC is surrounded by some of the lowest-income neighborhoods in the state. Clearly, there is still a lot of work to be done to truly diversify admissions at USC. However, it is important to still recognize the impact of the Foshay Learning Center’s results as it should be a call for action for all institutions of higher education to make stronger efforts to collaborate with the their surrounding communities to create similar pipelines that can provide students with more opportunities and exposure. Students at the Foshay Learning Center who are involved with the NAI start their college application process in the 6th grade. It is crucial for more high schools and local colleges and universities to create partnerships that will allow for results like these to not be an exception and rather an expectation.

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