The U.S. Department of Education awarded Pasadena City College, a Hispanic serving institution, the Pathways to Completion title V grant on Sept. 1, 2020.

“There’s a very large definition of these grants but they include the term strengthening institutions grants,” Associate Dean of First Year Experience Brock Klein said. “The goal of Title III and Title V grants is to strengthen institutions that have a certain percentage of LatinX students in them.”

PCC is 51% hispanic which qualifies the college for Title V grants, but the services they fund are not limited to Hispanic students and are available to all.

“We want to make sure that all students, wherever they come from, whatever their background is will benefit and thrive,” Klein said

The California Foundation of Community Colleges says that most students who enter California community colleges never complete a degree, certificate or transfer to a 4 year university.

Pathways to Completion is a $3 million Title V grant, administered over five years, that is designed to help students achieve their educational and career objectives and get internships and jobs in their desired fields.

The grant which was written as part of PCC’s Guided Pathways Initiative is designed as a companion grant to the already successful Abriendo Caminos grant which began Oct. 1, 2019 and was created to help incoming PCC students be successful their first year.

“We have a very successful first year program known as Pathways,” said Dr. Isela Ocegueda, Pathways project director. “Before Dr. Endrijonas came on board … that program was geared to maybe one third of our first year students. When Dr. Endrijonas came, the charge was ‘it has to be offered to every first year student.’”

Dr. Erika Endrijonas, superintendent/president of PCC, was instrumental in expanding Pathways, based on earlier recommendations by the Aspen Prize committee.

The Aspen Prize is a $1 million prize for community college excellence, which PCC had applied for two years in a row and failed to win.

“They said, ‘you need to figure out how to scale up,’’’ Endrijonas said. “So what I said was, ‘we need to figure out how to do this’ and some really talented folks not only figured out how to scale up, they figured out how to do it in the middle of a pandemic.”

Although there is overlap with Abriendo Caminos and the Pathways to Completion grants, they focus on two different areas to achieve the same goal.

“Abriendo Caminos grant is about opening the pathway and the completion grant is very much about taking us through,” said Klein.

Both of these grants are part of the larger California Vision for Success, Governor Newsom’s statewide initiative which seeks to increase the number of certificate, Associate degree, credential and skills training completion graduates by 20%. Newsom’s plan also seeks to increase by 35% annually the number of California community college students who transfer to UC and CSU schools.

“Pathways [is] really about putting career first and the way we prepare our students in thinking about their futures and getting them to complete [their programs],” said Ocegueda.

Pathways to Completion’s goal is to significantly change the way a PCC student moves through their academic career. Creating a Network of Care for each student, the program’s intention is to expand the use of success centers and success teams to create academic and social support systems that students can be a part of from their first year until they graduate.

“A success team might be made up of a success coach, a counselor, a librarian and faculty kind of like a little team to help each student,” Ocegueda said.“One of the things we’ve been working on for a while now is redesigning our success centers so that they are more accessible to our students.”

PCC already has success centers on campus, but there was no framework that helped students move from tutoring to administration issues to campus life. The re-designed success centers funded by the Title V grant will be the connective tissue that brings all of these entities together.

“The approach that we have with tutoring our students and offering them academic support is more unified and consistent in the way that we deliver it,” said Ocegueda. “We really shouldn’t be working in isolation from each other, we should be working together.”

Along with providing support to complete academic goals, Pathways to Completion is designed to create an exit strategy for students entering the workforce.

“With Pathways to Completion, the first strategy is career first,” Klein said.

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