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EOPS counselor Alma M. Olivares-Luera and Buddy Sampson, The Scoop LA Publisher and LAVC graduate. (Photo– Carol Brenner)

*Attention, Black men, 18-75!!

In many of our communities, we are witnessing the decay of the fabric of the Black family. Much of the decay is because of the lack of great middle class jobs, in manufacturing, construction and many other fields that had Black men working.

The landscape has changed, and not for the better, particularly for Black men, who often suffer discrimination, even in 2017. In today’s environment, when good paying, middle class jobs are at a high premium; education can still serve as an answer for a road to economic prosperity.

In 2017 Black men have an opportunity to move upward financially,but education is a key component to success.  And community colleges, like LA Valley Colleges can provide a roadmap to success.

Many believe that getting an education is expensive, and it can be, but if you are a low income student and a resident of Los Angeles, you can enroll in a community college like LA Valley College for free. Yes, for free. Okay, every student has to pay a health fee of $12- but $12 a year for a quality education? That’s the price of two Fatburgers, or two Starbucks coffees.  And it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or you’re 75, it is never too late to get your education and there are benefits to doing it, as you’ll read later.

Funny, many other ethnicities have figured that out. Each year, for example at Los Angeles Valley College, you spot every ethnicity in line, signing up for classes in college, including Black and African American women; but very few Black or African American men. Of the Black men that do sign up for classes, many of them are from the Islands or from Africa.

Black men, our communities need you. We need to be examples of success, in a positive way. We should get our education and use our education to lift our communities and give others the tools to make it.

Through the community college environment, particularly in California, where it’s free, you may gain a host of employable skills to earn a degree, a certificate or classes for personal development. In California, if you are a low income resident, you are eligible to enroll in the EOPS program.

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Buddy and Julien Dothard, two graduates over 50. It’s never too late to get an education.

EOPS & CARE

Why should Black and African American men enroll in EOPS?

“EOPS gives you a sense of home on the campus,” said Sherri A. Rodriguez, Ed.D, Associate Dean, EOPS/CARE. “It’s a place where you can go and have most of your needs met in one place, especially through the counseling.”

EOPS, (Extended Opportunity Programs & Services) and CARE, (Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education) are programs that can help you through school, whether you are single or have dependents.

The mission of EOPS at Los Angeles Valley College is to assist eligible students who have historically experienced economic and educational challenges. EOPS provides:

  • Academic, career & personal counseling
  • Tutoring
  • Textbook service
  • Workshops
  • Priority registration
  • Progress monitoring
  • Transfer assistance and other services

To be eligible for EOPS, a student must meet all six (6) of the following requirements:

  • Be educationally disadvantaged. Must provide proof of one of the following in person:
  • Assessment scores with recommended placement in basic English or Math
  • Prior enrollment in basic English or Math
  • Not a high school graduate or does not have a GED
  • A high school GPA below 2.5
  • Taken previous remedial (special) education classes
  • Current or former foster youth
  • Member of college identified underrepresented group
  • Have a low income and be eligible for a fee waiver. Must qualify for a Board of Governors Fee Waiver (called a BOG waiver) A, B, C, with $0 estimated family income (EFC) in the Financial Aid Office.
  • Enroll in 12 or more units at Los Angeles Valley College unless Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) provides the student with an exemption.
  • Have less than 50 degree applicable units from all colleges attended. Official transcripts maybe required.
  • Be in good academic standing (not on academic or progress probation) at time of application.
  • Be a California resident or meet California Dream Act requirements.

EOPS, issues vouchers for books, which is invaluable. Books can be very expensive and vouchers either pay for your books or cover most of the books’ cost. “EOPS could provide a road map to help get you to whatever your educational goal may be,” said Dr. Rodriguez, “and to do that in the most efficient manner and you’re not wasting any time taking classes that you don’t need. We provide book vouchers, tutoring and other types of services.”

CARE-The mission of CARE is to support the unique needs of EOPS students who are single parents by promoting self-sufficiency and academic success through tailored workshops, additional counseling, educational materials and financial assistance for child care related expenses.

To be eligible for CARE a student must be:

  1. 18 years or older
  2. CalWORKs/TANF recipient or parent/guardian of a TANF recipient living in the same household
  3. Single head of household
  4. Parent of at least one child under 14.
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Sherry A. Rodriguez, Ed.D. Associate Dean, EOPS/CARE

Financial Aid

Now here is a well- kept secret. Financial aid, including grants and loans are available for all students, as long as you are a citizen of the United States. Those grants will come in quite handy- you can use it to pay a rent, buy a car to support yourself, or, if you budget accordingly, go to school and work part time. Campuses have work study programs that will help sustain you along with loans and grants you may receive. Once you get enrolled in school, immediately seek the department in your potential school that offers scholarships and apply to every scholarship you qualify for. Any scholarship that you acquire is money that can help you sustain yourself in these tough times, particularly for Black men.

How to apply for Financial aid and loans? You file a government form called a FAFSA. For more information please visit https://fafsa.ed.gov/. Now many of us, older and younger may have tax problems. Before you file a FAFSA, visit irs.gov. Here’s something that they won’t tell you. If you are low income, unemployed or simply have a tax debt you cannot pay, the IRS has programs to write off a lot of that debt for pennies on the dollar. Much of the time you can either eliminate your tax debt or reduce to a manageable payment plan.

Very important- File all your tax returns, even if you owe money. Surprisingly, the IRS will work with you as long as you contact them first. Once your tax returns are all filed, fill out your FAFSA document. And you’re on your way to getting some cash- useful if you are receiving $200 on welfare, or your unemployment benefits have ran dry.  You can be learning and developing your future by getting a degree, a certificate or simple personal development.

A Word on Degrees

I hope if you are reading this that you understand that you want to pick a degree that emphasizes something you love that can make money. If you are a musician, and love hip hop, work to get that Music degree and learn recording. The colleges teach that. Inspire to have your own television show- major in Television. Love playing video games and hanging with the boys? Learn video technology. You may be the next one to create the next Grand Theft Auto.  Interested in health and medicine? You can be working in 2 years if you get a degree in Nursing or related medical fields.

Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics are all degrees that will virtually guarantee a high paying job. If you have an aptitude for numbers and love numbers, you can make bank! Seriously. And if you are a STEM major(Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) even at upper level colleges there are so many grants available for STEM majors, you will pay little for the best colleges in California. Visit https://www.teachforamerica.org/about-us/our-initiatives/science-technology-engineering-and-math-stem-initiative.

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Pastor Elder George Hampton, Eugene Batson (an LAVC graduate), Professor Buchanon (a fitness professor) and Buddy Sampson

Once you get in School- Keys

  • Go to counseling immediately. EOPS has tremendous counselors that will walk you through any pitfall you have in life. They are there to help. Also, visit your school’s counselors. Most of them want you to succeed. Caution- do not let anyone, including counselors, tell you can’t succeed. And if you happen to run into a counselor like that, report them immediately to their supervisors.
  • Important- Get to know your professors. You may be new at college or not have been in school for a while. Talk to your professors, get to know them and do all of the assignments. If you work hard, do all or most of the assignments and show that you are truly interested in passing a course, if you know a professor and you are a couple of points away from getting a “C”, knowing your professor can often give you that edge from getting that C, B, or A. Additionally, jobs are about who you know and professors often have resources that you wouldn’t imagine.
  • Take at least one or two African American studies classes, including History. It’s very frustrating that other ethnicities know more about our history then we do. If you know your own history, then others cannot distort the truth.
  • Read a little about the current events of the day. I’m not saying be a news phobe, but know enough about current events to be able to discuss them intelligently with anyone. That will serve you well in many social situations.
  • Read about sports. Not just the NBA, know a little about the current golfers, hockey players, baseball players, tennis players and football players. If you know just the basic stuff about all of those sports, then you can have conversations from everyone from your hangout partners to the CEO of Apple. You’ll be invited to fun places if you are able to hold your own in conversation.
  • Get to know your classmates of all ethnicities. I would suggest taking an Intercultural Communications course. There’s nothing like having friends from all over the world. You will find them fascinating and they will be fascinated by you, too.
  • Get to know the librarians at your school libraries. They are an invaluable tool.
  • And lastly, don’t get discouraged. Don’t let some of the attitudes, dirty looks or bad treatment get in the way of getting your degree. Some people just aren’t used to being around Black men and don’t realize that we are some of the most kindest, strongest, intelligent and charismatic men on the planet. Don’t accept racism, ever. If you feel that you have, or are being discriminated against, there are channels to fix that. Remember- you have a right to a good education and you belong in a college environment. Don’t let ANYONE tell you differently.

Two years will go by anyway. So why not have a degree or certificate and have a little cash, too. I would love to see colleges, like LA Valley College, LA Pierce College, Los Angeles Community College and all of the community colleges lined with Black men, determined to get their education.

And by the way, the advice I gave above can be used for any low income people, whether you’re White, Black, Latino, Armenian, Asian, Middle Eastern or any ethnicity. I’ve directed this article to Black men, simply because the numbers of Black men are so low in community colleges, it’s disturbing- especially when you can get a quality education for a mere $12 a year in California.

So don’t wait. Enroll now for the fall semester. Classes will go quickly and this year, let’s come to college in high numbers. And if you need help pointing you in the right direction, e-mail me at b[email protected]. I will help in any way I can. I would love to see Dr. Sherry Rodriguez stunned by the increase in numbers of Black students that are registered for fall and EOPS.  When asked about the importance of education, Dr. Rodriguez was quite candid in her response. “I don’t think you can achieve what it is you want to achieve without it,” she said. “It makes a huge difference in your quality of life.”

Great schools in the Valley:

www.lavc.edu

www.piercecollege.edu

For a complete listing of schools in the Los Angeles area visit:

https://www.laccd.edu