Dr. Thomas A. Parham, President, California State University, Dominguez Hills

The great American poet Langston Hughes once reminded us, “We should hold fast to dreams for if they die, life is just a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” Co-curricular initiatives that include mentoring and support are the substantive engagements that prevent the wings of our children and adolescents from breaking and mend those that do fracture under the weight of life circumstances. 

 Consequently, as we consider how much education in Los Angeles has changed in the past four years, one undeniable truth emerges: the need for equitable support for all students, particularly students of color, continues to be crucial for their success. Whether we are referring to their academic success or their socioemotional development, support programs are essential to help them navigate the pathways to productivity and achievement.  

 As teachers and school communities have adapted and remained flexible over the past few years, one component of post-pandemic learning has emerged as a beacon of hope: providing vital mentorship and academic guidance to thousands of students across diverse communities. In the California State University System, we embrace such programs, as these initiatives are essential to prepare students to compete for coveted spots in the State’s systems of higher education.  

 We have known for years that mentorship changes lives, particularly here in Los Angeles. For more than 15 years, City Year Los Angeles (CYLA) has grown from a small, committed group of mentors to reaching thousands of students from all walks of life. The heart of CYLA’s mission lies in its Student Success Coaches, who serve as more than just mentors – they are advocates for change. Embedded within historically underserved communities, these coaches work tirelessly to bridge the gap between a student’s aspirations and the realities they confront in life that too often derail their progress. 

Most notably, the school communities that Student Success Coaches serve are precisely the communities that have historically been underserved: schools in Black and Brown communities in LA. 

The importance of student coaching has become so clear that two years ago, Governor Newsom added funding to the budget to create the Student Success Coach Learning Network, a collaboration of eight mentorship programs in California, including CYLA, that place Student Success Coaches in school communities. The network began because of a State-funded grant, which is set to expire this year – putting our progress suddenly at risk.  

In my 42+ years as an academician, scholar, administrator, and psychologist, I have seen firsthand the power of education to transform lives and uplift communities. I have seen students and teachers overcome obstacles and achieve greatness when given the right support and resources. City Year Los Angeles is committed to providing that support, but cannot do it alone.  

We need the state to step up and continue providing funding to California’s Student Success Coach Learning Network. By doing so, the state can demonstrate its commitment to supporting our teachers and school communities, while continuing to bolster this pathway for more young people of color to pursue careers in education, public service, and other fields that align with their aspirations.  

CYLA’s dual mission to support historically underserved students – and to help our teachers and school administrators – is crucial. The students who work with Student Success Coaches come from various backgrounds, and they face unique challenges. Many of them are from low-income families within historically under-resourced neighborhoods, struggling to access the same opportunities as their more affluent peers. Student Success Coaches are there to offer guidance and to ensure that the students they serve – whether they are Black, Latinx, in the foster care system, recent arrivals to the U.S., or have an incarcerated parent – are not left behind.  

We have come so far. As we enter another budget season, it is time to remember the critical role that programs like California’s Student Success Coach Learning Network play in improving educational outcomes and preparing young people for a brighter future, many of whom will continue in California State University campuses across the system.  

By including funding for the California Student Success Coach Learning Network in the upcoming budget, California can make a powerful statement about its commitment to equity, education, and the future of our youth. We ask our state leaders to stand with us, invest in the future of our children, and help us create a brighter tomorrow for all. 


is the 11th President of California State University, Dominguez Hills. He is a licensed psychologist with more than 42 years as an academician, scholar and clinician, and is a past president of the National Association of Black Psychologists.