Twenty-five ninth graders in the Long Beach Unified School District, most of them at Jordan High School, have a distinct advantage in the classroom after spending four weeks this summer studying math in a residential program at prestigious Harvey Mudd College, part of the Claremont Colleges.
The 25 African American students were selected from four North Long Beach middle schools as part of the first Claremont Urban Math Collaborative. The partnership with Claremont is part of LBUSD’s North Long Beach Initiative, which includes a major renovation of Jordan High scheduled for completion in 2015.
The aim of the Math Collaborative is to help under-represented students gain admission to top colleges and universities. The four-week session was the beginning of a four-year commitment from the students and their parents. This fall, the students will be paired with mentors from Cal State Long Beach or Cal State Dominguez Hills, and the students will return to Harvey Mudd for another four weeks next summer. The plan is to add a new class of 25 freshmen each year and to continue building the program until 100 students are participating.
Initial funding for the program was provided by American Honda, Wells Fargo and Long Beach philanthropist Roberta Jenkins. The program was conceived by Rev. Leon Wood, Claremont Graduate University director of the McNair Scholar Program.
Algebra and higher level math frequently are college gateway courses that pose unique challenges for high schoolers.
“The program is here because I am convinced, we are all convinced, that our African American youth can become not just good mathematicians, but great mathematicians,” Wood told students and parents at the program’s opening ceremony. “It’s not about proficiency. We are going to move beyond proficient. We are going to be outstanding.”
The aim is for the students to be taking calculus by their senior year and getting A’s.
“It’s going to be a struggle no doubt,” Wood said. “But it is going to be worth every ounce of energy we put into it. We’re creating our future here.”