This fall semester the College of Education will welcome its first cohort of approximately 100 students enrolled in the HSI Caminos Project, a student pipeline program aimed at increasing Latina/o and Hispanic students in the teaching profession. The project was funded in October 2017 through a 5-year Title V grant from the U.S. Department of Education for Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI), of which CSULB is one. The College of Education Dean, Dr. Shireen Pavri, serves as Principal Investigator, with day-to-day project leadership and oversight provided by Co-Project Directors, Tim Keirn and Dr. José Moreno, faculty in the Colleges of Education and Liberal Arts.
Through this new initiative, the University will build capacity to better serve and increase Latina/o and Hispanic student success on campus, and to better serve all students. However, specific to the Caminos Project is the creation of a pathway encouraging Latina/o and Hispanic students to undertake an undergraduate major or post-baccalaureate credentials that lead toward a teaching career. This goal seeks to increase the number of Latina/o and Hispanic students entering the teaching profession, and to address the ethnic disparity between Latina/o student populations and their teachers. Approximately 55% of students in Long Beach Unified School District identify as Latina/o, however only 18% of teachers identify as such. The Caminos Project pipeline seeks to reduce that imbalance by training and graduating Latina/o students and preparing them for a career in the classroom where they can positively impact and serve as educator role models for their students. By having successful teacher models that mirror their own culture, students are more likely to seek that particular profession. Part of the Caminos Project aims to create this reality. However, most importantly, educators must be highly effective, well prepared, and culturally adaptive. One of the goals of this grant is to provide faculty development to ensure that our credential candidates are being prepared to use culturally responsive pedagogies in their future PK-12 classrooms. This effort is led by College of Education faculty, Drs. Edwin Achola, Betina Hsieh, Leslie Reese, and Shametrice Davis, who will work with faculty from across the University to prepare Caminos Project students for a future working with and bridging the gap between K-12 Latina/o students and teachers. When asked about the importance of the grant effort to area schools and students, Dr. José Moreno, faculty in the Chicano and Latino Studies Department replied, “The demography demands it. All teachers need to be prepared. Being one of the largest, if not the largest producers of credentials demands that we align our work in preparing all teachers for the local context of Latina/o communities, working-class, and urban [environment]. If we can better prepare [students], districts will want to hire our graduates.”
College of Education Dean, Dr. Shireen Pavri, says of the new grant, “The HSI Caminos Project furthers the College of Education’s mission of equity and excellence in education by growing a pipeline of teachers from traditionally underserved populations to meet the needs of diverse learners in urban schools. The Caminos Project provides a unique opportunity for CED to tailor our outreach, curriculum, advising and mentoring supports, clinical practice placements and faculty development to serve current and prospective Hispanic and low-income students who are preparing to be teachers. Grant activities will enrich the academic preparation and social-emotional supports provided to teacher credential candidates across the University.”
To centralize this initiative, a new office within the College of Education has been created to support the newly enrolled Caminos Project students and serve as a hub for all related activities. Overseen by Coordinator Yesenia Hernandez, the office offers peer mentors for student-to-student support, a team of advisors to liaise with students, in addition to external support from local teacher mentors in neighboring districts. These educators will serve as mentors for clinical practice including student teaching, guiding undergrads just entering the credential program and those already enrolled.
The grant also goes beyond the College of Education and the CSULB campus and into surrounding Long Beach and Los Angeles neighborhoods through community engagement programs focusing on youth groups where children can learn about careers in Education.
Tim Keirn, Director of the University Single Subject Program, stressed the community relevance and importance of the grant by saying, “We’re surrounded by school districts that are largely Latino or Latinx. It seems that we should be working hard, and the grant is allowing us to do this, to make sure that we’re doing what we should be doing, which is to promote teaching and learning. The context of the public schools around us and the purpose of this grant is giving us the ability to leverage that both in terms of cultural priorities of teaching, but also the subject matter.”
After this fall’s first cohort of 100 students, each semester that follows will recruit an additional cohort of 100 students, with the goal of moving the students through their degree toward graduation. By June 2020 the College of Education anticipates 400 Caminos Project undergraduates, who are ready to move into post-graduate work, will remain in the pipeline.