The Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) is the largest system of its kind in the nation. More than 100,000 students residing in 36 cities attend its nine campuses that encompass 900 square miles.
According to its website, “LACCD educates almost three times as many Latino students and nearly four times as many African-American students as all of the University of California campuses combined. Eighty percent of LACCD students are from underserved populations.”
Nine elected trustees govern the huge district and none could be more excited about this role than Sydney Kamlager, who began her term in July 2015. A proponent of education, Kamlager believes community colleges are a great vehicle to move people into middle-class status.
“Most folks find their way into middle-skilled careers and blue-collar careers by way of the community colleges. I’m excited to talk about that message,” said Kamlager.
The curriculum at community colleges attracts a wide range of students seeking to improve their future. Associate degrees are offered as well as transition to a four-year college or university. Also, vocational training and certificate programs are available along with personal development classes.
Many educational desires can be met through community colleges and Kamlager is determined to spread the word. As part of this effort, she is touring each of the LACCD college campuses, interacting with students and staff.
“I’m half-way though the tour and I have met students who have these stories that are amazing. They reaffirmed the work that the LACC trustees and the district are obligated to do,” she noted.
“Some of those programs, like the second-chancer program at Trade Tech, a student said, ‘This is what I need to get me out my poverty situation, on to a career that’s going to pay. I’m so grateful that I’m able to get into these classes. It changed my life.’”
The life-changing aspect is a key message that Kamlager shares with residents as she promotes LACCD. She also emphasizes the district’s goal to strengthen its infrastructure to meet the needs of students such as veterans, emancipated foster youth, and those living below the poverty line.
“We have an obligation to make sure that we are offering them more support services… than just financial aid. We need to make sure that we have enough counselors, programs that are designed to help those specific populations, make sure that they have access to the social services that they need like housing, transportation, health care, and that we’re helping them find their career pathways as well,” said Kamlager.
Her intent is well needed, considering that 51% of LACCD students live below the poverty line and 18% are from families where the parents only have an elementary school education. Such odds can be overwhelming hurdles for people who want to attend college.
However, Kamlager hopes to share with prospective students that LACCD can help them achieve their educational goals. In fact, the California Community Colleges recently signed an agreement with nine Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to accept credits from students seeking a four-year degree.
To assist her with publicizing this message, she’s recruiting the support of faith-based organizations, business owners, trade associations and African-American elected officials.
“I have 20 years of experience in the private-public sectors. I was at Crystal Stairs (nonprofit child development agency) for a long time and I’ve learned how to raise funds, work with different constituencies, how to organize, negotiate, and build relationships,” said Kamlager.
Kamlager insists that her background working in both public and private agencies will be an asset in building partnerships with different groups.
“Currently, I’m also district director for State Senator Holly Mitchell and that’s all about constituent services, responding to the needs of your constituents and how to connect them to the right department or to the right resources to help them. That, I think, is a large part of my role as a trustee, facilitating relationships, facilitating partnerships and introductions, facilitating resolutions to complex problems and issues.”
To learn more about Kamlager and LACCD, visit laccd.edu.