Community Voices
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Past students of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor College Bound program. (photo: Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor)

Twenty-one years ago, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor (BGCLAH) initiated our College Bound program to fully support teens and especially underrepresented students of color in securing the skills, acceptance, and funding necessary to attend college. 

Over the years, our one-on-one case management focused program provided our members with the “college coach” they could not access or afford. Last year, we had 2,105 high school students in our College Bound program. Of the 991 seniors participating last year, 982 graduated on time (99 percent), and 954 went to college (96 percent), with $16.2 million of federal aid and scholarships we helped them secure.  

While these results are fantastic, college is not for everyone. Post-pandemic, the truth is that many high school seniors really do not want to attend college but would rather enter the workforce right away — to assist their families, start a pathway to a possible career, or both.

During high school, I worked in my uncle’s shoe repair shop (Ray’s Shoe Repair), and when starting college, I worked at the Big C lumber yard due to my friend John’s family’s ownership. However, most teens today do not have that type of connection or access, so getting a job out of high school that may result in a career path is much more difficult, especially in today’s gig economy that prioritizes contract workers rather than regular employees with traditional work guarantees and benefits.

In response, this year the BGCLAH decided to significantly expand our workforce development program for high school juniors and seniors with a program that we call Career Bound. This program provides the same one-on-one case management of students and daily academic support after school that our College Bound members receive to ensure high school graduation. 

Participants also engage in regular soft-skills-building activities, including basic technology, resume building, “dress for success,” mock interviews, and more.

Through a partnership with seven local trade unions and other employers, we sponsored multiple job fairs in our clubhouses again this year and sponsored trips to union training centers to support participants applying for apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship positions. 

In a further major funding commitment, this summer, we are opening up our own workforce center at the corner of 13th and Cabrillo, which will support alumni and other young adults (18-24) after high school and along their pathway to full-time employment and, hopefully, a career.

Most importantly, this summer we are sponsoring a summer internship program where graduating seniors will be paid for 120 hours of work with a local business. Our goal is 100 internships this summer. We hope this much-needed work experience will result in either continued employment with the “host” business or another job opportunity with an expanded resume. Internship participants are able to build their confidence as young employees, eliminating some self-doubt as they navigate the new working environment while also supporting themselves and their families financially. 

We have a number of employers already lined up (contractors, restaurants, medical services, manufacturing, property management, IT), but we are looking for many more partners, and there are several ways individuals and businesses can help: SPONSOR: An individual/organization provides a tax-deductible donation of $2,500 to support one intern this summer; HOST: A business owner provides the position, training, and mentorship for an intern, while the Boys & Girls Club pays for the intern’s compensation; HOST/SPONSOR: A local business both hosts the intern with a position and funds the $2,500 for the intern’s compensation.

If you are interested in supporting an intern in any of these three ways this summer, please contact our Career Bound director Dominique Marino at Providing pathways to careers for our high school graduates, whether via college or directly into the workforce, is a worthy endeavor — we could use your assistance, if possible, in this critical effort in support of young adults we have dedicated our lives to serve. spt

photo of san pedro today author Mike Lansing

Mike Lansing

Mike Lansing is the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor.