Jaren Savage appeared with Mayor Eric Garcetti at a Nov. 1 news conference to announce the launch of the new Achieve LA college-readiness initiative. (Photo Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined California State University, Los Angeles and YMCA officials last Wednesday to launch Achieve LA, an initiative to create pathways to higher education for local youth in South Los Angeles and surrounding areas.

Achieve LA will leverage existing Cradle to Career Success Initiative programs at four YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles locations, including the Weingart YMCA Wellness and Aquatic Center in South L.A. and the Southeast-Rio Vista YMCA, to inform youth about the college admissions process and prepare them to enroll at a university. Youth who participate in the initiative and meet minimum university requirements will be guaranteed admission to Cal State LA.

The program is the first of its kind at any YMCA, according to officials with the association.

“We believe that a child growing up in Boyle Heights or South L.A. should have the same access to programs and support as kids in Brentwood or Encino,” Garcetti said at the Nov. 1 news conference at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA. “There’s no limit – if you believe, you can achieve.”

The mayor was joined by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, whose 53rd District includes areas that will be served by the initiative, Cal State LA Executive Vice President Jose A. Gomez and YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles President and Chief Executive Officer Alan C. Hostrup.

Jaren Savage shared how he benefitted from the programs he participated in at the Weingart YMCA Wellness and Aquatic Center as a child growing up in Compton. Savage, who recently graduated from high school, plans to study car design in Torino, Italy, next year.

“Thanks to this historic partnership between the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles and Cal State LA, thousands of youth just like me will have the chance to attend Cal State LA and become Golden Eagles,” Savage said.

Under the partnership, Cal State LA students will mentor and advise youth in the YMCA programs. These students, some of whom attended the news conference, are part of the university’s #IServeLA initiative, which provides thousands of volunteers who serve community-based organizations across Los Angeles.

Achieve LA will be offered at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA location, as well as the Crenshaw Family YMCA, Southeast-Rio Vista YMCA and Weingart YMCA Wellness and Aquatic Center in South Los Angeles.

“Achieve LA is about dreams – the dreams of our community, the dreams of our youth and the dreams of our families,” Gomez said. “Working with Mayor Garcetti, Assemblymember Santiago and the YMCA family, we will make those dreams a reality through higher education.”

Hostrup, who officially announced the initiative, said the YMCA was honored to launch the partnership with Cal State LA.

“The program will offer teens in our city’s most under-resourced communities, the tools, the support and guidance needed to reach their potential by providing a clear pathway to college,” Hostrup said.

Santiago praised the new initiative and thanked the YMCA and Cal State LA for their commitment to serving Los Angeles youth. Santiago is the author of Assembly Bill 19, which was signed into law last month and waives fees for first-time community college students for one year.

“We know, out of this program, we will ensure that every student that goes through these doors will get a college diploma. Right, kids?” Santiago said to dozens of students decked out in bright gold and blue Achieve LA T-shirts.

The fifth graders from KIPP LA Prep, next door to the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA, responded to Santiago with a resounding, “Yeah!”

Gomez noted that Achieve LA aligns with the mayor’s L.A. College Promise and College Corners initiatives, which are creating pathways to higher education and fostering a greater understanding of the college admissions process for all Angelino families.

Garcetti applauded the new Achieve LA partnership and Cal State LA’s success in transforming students’ lives.

“Cal State Los Angeles is not just a great university in the greatest city on the face of the earth, they’re No. 1 – they’re No. 1 for social mobility and economic mobility in the United States of America,” Garcetti said. “They beat Harvard, they beat Princeton, they beat Stanford, they beat UCLA, they beat USC, they beat Cal. In other words, taking folks who grew up in the bottom quintile and move into the top quintile in this country. In a moment when we are looking for those escalators, we’re looking for those staircases, we’re looking for those opportunities, Cal State LA does that each and every day.”