An initiative aimed at encouraging more students from the East Los Angeles area to pursue a college degree by guaranteeing them admission to Cal State Los Angeles was unveiled last week by education officials.
“GO East L.A.: A Pathway for College and Career Success” is a partnership between Garfield High School, East Los Angeles College and Cal State L.A. Developed by LA Unified School Board Member Monica Garcia, ELAC President Marvin Martinez and Cal State L.A. President William A. Covino, the initiative gives students from Garfield High School and ELAC priority admission to Cal State L.A. if they meet certain qualifications.
The creators of the initiative say their vision is to develop a “community-wide cradle-to-career educational system” that supports area youth from pre-school through college graduation with the tools to be successful at each level of the education system, as well as give them a pathway to college. The goal is to ensure students attending Garfield High School and ELAC in East L.A. get the skills they need to “contribute to the health and economic vitality of the community,” according to a statement released by ELAC.
Through GO East L.A., students attending Garfield High School will receive support for achieving their after high school academic goals, whether they first attend ELAC or go straight to Cal State L.A. Students attending ELAC will also get targeted assistance to help them transfer to Cal State L.A.
Among other things, the initiative calls for gathering private and public resources to provide more academic and counseling support to Garfield and ELAC students to make sure they are successfully completing the classes they need to attend Cal State L.A. Students will be encouraged to take more college-prep classes and courses that qualify for college credit while still in high school.
Lea este artículo en Español: Se Refuerza Asociación Entre Garfield, ELAC y CSULA para Mejoras de Educación 
Garfield High School, at one time one of the most over-crowded LAUSD campuses, currently enrolls about 2.500 students and had a graduation rate in 2011-12 of 87.3%, according to Garfield Principal, Jose Huerta.
Board Member Garcia said Go East L.A.’s objective is to remove obstacles faced by many eastise students so they can graduate in less time and enter the workforce with a degree in their hands. The partnership is committed to holding themselves “accountable” for the success of the students, officials said.
“We will start by getting our professors and our teachers talking to each other,” Garcia told EGP. “The counselors at the campuses talking to each other too,” she said. “…Garfield High School class of 2014 is already connected with ELAC and Cal State L.A.” she added.
Garfield senior Julia Soto told EGP the initiative is a great resource for her because she plans to get her Associates Degree or enter a nursing program and to eventually get a Bachelors of Science degree. “This program is encouraging [us] to go to ELAC and then transfer to Cal State L.A. with priority registration,” she said following the press conference held May 8 at Garfield.
Soto said she is currently taking college classes on the weekends to accelerate her college degree. “People from ELAC come on Saturdays to give us classes,” she said. “They motivate us to continue with our studies.”
Huerta told EGP he is “very impressed and honored” that Garfield’s achievements are being recognized.
For now, the high school portion of the initiative is limited Garfield, but Garcia said she hopes other eastside schools, such as Esteban Torres and the Solis Learning Academy will be added in the next round.
While the three educational institutions have always had a relationship, Garcia said she hopes this new effort will make the relationship and objectives clearer. “What we want to see in the GO East L.A. program is better organization around the programs, the supports and the outcomes,” she told EGP.
Local businesses will also provide help to needy students. Among the local supporters, Grifols Worldwide, a global healthcare group adjacent to the Cal State L.A. campus, has donated $50,000 for scholarships for students in the program.
GO East L.A. will also develop support programs geared toward helping students earn a college degree or career required certificates, as well as build college awareness through outreach to middle schools and partnerships with community groups and parents to promote college attendance and college-ready skills.
GO East L.A. hopes to include East L.A. area middle schools, such as Belvedere, Griffith and Stevenson, to the outreach effort.
Garcia said she hopes to see programs that work eventually expanded to schools outside of East L.A.
“We want to see a GO Lincoln Heights, GO Boyle Heights,” she said. “We need to see all of them to get to the finishing line.”
Twitter @jackieguzman