PCC has just been awarded $2.5 million through the Title V Grant for the next five years, with the first year of funds received earlier this month enabling the Pathways program to move forward with their second year program.

The Title V Grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education comes as PCC has been identified as an Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) —a college that serves that population—where the current Pathways programs is in place to help serve that demographic need.

Dr. Brock Klein, associate dean of Pathways and professional learning, is eager to help further what started as a pilot program last year for second-year Pathways students.

According to Klein, to qualify for Pathways, high school students have to be at or below a certain income level. The additional grant funds specifically focus on supporting Pathways students who face new challenges in their second year, many of whom are Latino students.

“We continue to grow and we continue to innovate and the district funds are not enough, so we really rely on the grant money,” Klein said of the first $525,000 in funds received.

The funds will help the program provide the students support through encouragement by engaging them in volunteer service—both on and off campus—through workshops, and in leadership roles. Through additional available tutoring, coaching and other resources and services, the students will work to complete a contract-based commitment designed to propel them toward their goals and get them beyond their first year.

“We are working closely with folks on campus to develop an internship-externship job shadowing program that would give students opportunities to think about their experience at PCC, connect with their major, and be able to apply what they are learning to a real-world situation,” said Klein.

By year two of the grant funds, Klein feels they should have something in place. With these initial funds, investment in personnel is key.

“With large grants, personnel are typically a large expense,” said Klein. “We need people thinking, working, researching, planning, implementing, evaluating, so these innovations take place with grants.”

Involved for nearly five years with the first year Pathways program, Javier Carbajal-Ramos provides outreach at the high school level. The outreach extends to all in-district and some out-of-district high schools, which amounts to about 30 schools total. Working with the High School Relations office, staff is trained to be ambassadors for PCC and each targeted high school is visited at least once monthly.

After completing an application and fulfilling requirements, students go through an info session, a scheduling workshop, and a summer orientation called Jam. Once at PCC, they work through an outlined program designed to get them through the first year and toward a goal.

Through this, Carbajal-Ramos has already encountered one success story. During an outreach event, a first year Pathways student he had coached went on to transfer to a university during her senior year at PCC. Volunteering at the Burbank High School event, she was there to share with and encourage other students.

“It was very emotional for me, the idea of having recruited this actual student,” he said. “And now she is acting as a recruiter … she let me know that she was finishing this year and was going to be attending graduate school.”

In addition to volunteerism and workshop participation, students are also encouraged to give back through the Pathways Connect mentorship program, where second year students mentor first year students in a year-long commitment.

Vir Vergel de Dios, a student success coach and coordinator with the second year Pathways program, began with the pilot program last year. Coaches, tutors and counselors there are currently working with a bare minimum of staff and equipment.

“Technically we didn’t have a pencil sharpener last year, that’s how very minimal our resources were,” she continued. “And since this is so new, we are still conceptualizing a lot of things … with Title V we can actually have computers and whiteboards and things like that.”

Tutors and coaches are also available to help assist at-risk students, especially students who may be on academic probation.

“If it’s been a year, they may be at that stage where they might be dismissed. So we do workshops to reach out and figure out how we can help [the student] get on track again,” she said. “So much of the funds we for asked for were to create these workshops, handouts, booklets, and help them create action plans and time management.”

Vergel de Dios said additional funds from other sources have been requested as well to help first year students engage with second year students.

“We just requested student funds to create more events for game night, dodge ball night, movie night—things like that—to get more engagement between the students in a more casual environment,” she said.

As first year Pathways students have the College I course in place to assist them, according to Vergel de Dios, the second year Pathways is looking to incorporate a similar course module and the program will also help students create an e-Portfolio as well toward success outside of PCC.

“The e-Portfolio is an online resume that showcases/highlights their educational career,” she said. We’re finding more and more that universities want and are requiring e-portfolios, so we get that ball rolling now.”

According to Carbajal-Ramos, “learning the language and culture of college” and time management are the biggest challenges for new college students who have just come from a culture where their time and curriculum are laid out and managed for them.

For Pathways, student success is measured based on a student’s ultimate goal.


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