CSULB partners with the Port, LBUSD to help students chart a path to college, career opportunities

Published February 19, 2024

International trade routes are woven throughout Southern California, especially in the Long Beach area. Rumbling freight trains, long lines of big rigs, and the sight of cargo ships are parts of everyday life.  

That is why the Center for International Trade & Transportation (CITT) at Cal State Long Beach supports the Port of Long Beach Academy of Global Logistics at Cabrillo High School. Formed via a partnership between CITT, the Port, and the Long Beach Unified School District, the Academy offers youths like first-year Beach student Adriana Sosa-Reyes an insider’s view of trade. 

“Growing up, I really didn’t think about it much. I knew that when we would travel on the freeway, there would be all these trucks,” said Sosa-Reyes, who is majoring in accounting. “It’s very informative to learn more about what the port does .... It’s a very cool experience to learn how business works.” 

A June 2023 Mineta Transportation Institute paper reports that, as of its writing, some 800 Cabrillo students had gone through the Academy since its 2016 founding. The paper observes that CITT, part of the College of Professional and Continuing Education, supports the program by providing teacher training, help with lessons, and liaising with industry professionals. 

“When you talk to students who are in the program, they see opportunities that they may not have seen before,” said Tom O’Brien, associate dean of the College of Professional and Continuing Education. 

Advanced learning at a young age 

The Port of Long Beach officials say more than 50,000 jobs performed within Long Beach are connected to trade. The Academy shows Cabrillo students how they can find places for themselves in this field. 

“As part of our commitment to the community, the Port strives to make every effort to ensure that Long Beach-area students have the opportunity to learn about and pursue career opportunities in goods movement and international trade,” Port of Long Beach Chief Executive Mario Cordero said. 

“The team at CITT has provided crucial guidance for this innovative program, which is designed to prepare students for success in college and their careers, which we hope will be in the goods movement industry.” 

The Port of Long Beach is the Academy’s principal financial sponsor, O’Brien said. Additional support comes from professionals who serve on the Academy’s advisory board, deliver in-class presentations, and sponsor students’ attendance at conferences. 

Such partnerships and investments support The Beach’s objective of shaping California's future workforce, one priority of the university's No Barriers campaign. The Beach recently reached its $275 million fundraising goal, and the campaign is now extended until June. 

Sosa-Reyes' recollections of truck traffic echo a passage in the Mineta Transportation Institute paper. Lead author Ann Y. Kim, associate professor of human development, wrote that although many Cabrillo students see big rigs near the neighborhood, they may not be aware the port is less than five miles from their high school. 

Adriana Sosa-Reyes
Adriana Sosa-Reyes

Yet Kim and her colleagues found the Academy shows Cabrillo students the way to opportunities in logistics, as well as how math and science are relevant to business. This can motivate them to persist through college-level coursework and researchers also reported the Academy cultivates problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills. 

“It really set me up to learn how to communicate with others well and learn how to get out of my comfort zone and rely on other people,” said Sosa-Reyes, who participated in the Academy throughout her 2019-23 enrollment at Cabrillo. 

One Academy project requires researching a country’s natural resources and manufacturing capacity, and figuring out the implications for its commercial relations, Cabrillo teacher James Dowding II said. In another, students learn how something as seemingly simple as candy may require shipping chocolate from Ghana, milk from New Zealand, and other ingredients to a manufacturing plant before delivering finished products to wherever someone indulges their sweet tooth. 

Academy students can also tour Long Beach’s harbor, meet professionals, and play the roles of business executives during a 12th-grade capstone project, Dowding said. These experiences can help teens envision their futures.  

“When you look at the value that it has on these young lives, it’s a ripple in a pond,” said Dowding, who has completed CITT’s Global Logistics Professional Program. “These people can see that there are opportunities for them." 

Setting a course for long-term success 

Dowding and O’Brien affirmed the Academy has had positive effects on students’ prospects. Whereas four Cabrillo students who participated in a business program preceding the Academy’s establishment went on to post-secondary education in 2015, 36 did so after last year’s graduations. 

O’Brien is hopeful connections formed between Academy students and today’s professionals will lead to improved relations and understanding between industry and people living near the Port. Academy graduates also have the potential to become leaders who enhance sustainable practices in logistics. 

“They know they have a stake in the solutions,” O’Brien said. “The students think about ‘What can we do with clean ports?’ ‘What can we do with different truck routes?’ ‘What can we do with the people doing the work having better working conditions?’