California State University, Long Beach

Meeting The Needs Of The Community

California State University, Long Beach infamously exists encased within its own zip code, near the city limits of the diverse metropolis it takes its name from. With over 35,000 students and hundreds of staff and faculty, it is effectively a city within city. It would be an easy assumption that the state school exists in isolation.

The work coming out of CSULB tells a very different story about the university’s relationship with the community it intersects.

New Tools, New Confidence

Some of the research impacting the next generation of potential CSULB students and local movers and shakers is work coming out of the Community Clinic for Counseling & Educational Services.

The clinic, formerly Educational Psychology Clinic, has been the setting for affordable counseling, academic intervention, and psychoeducational assessment services for over 40 years. The Community Clinic serves two primary functions for the community: It provides comprehensive educational and psychological services for members of the community at a low cost, and it doubles as the clinical training site for the School Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mathematics Education master’s degree programs.

In late July, the Community Clinic held their The Summer Math Clinic, under the supervision of Clinic Director and Professor of Advanced Studies in Education and Counseling, Kristin Powers. The two-week intensive intervention brought fifteen students from the ages of 6 to 17 to participate in daily-individualized instruction on either fractions or algebra, two common stumbling blocks in mathematics

This clinic and others like it are made possible through $1.25 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs to recruit, retain, and graduate 21 high achieving individuals, including members of historically underrepresented groups, to the field of school psychology who are highly qualified to develop and support culturally relevant, evidence-based interventions in a multi-tiered system of services (MTSS) to improve the outcomes of students, including students with disabilities and those at-risk of developing disabilities.

“The intensive, evidence-based interventions are necessary because it is not available at this affordable price in the larger community and we receive many more referrals than we can handle at the moment,” Powers says of the need for the clinic.

Marielena Martinez’s son, 13, came to the clinic to get assistance with 7th grade algebra. He was referred to the clinic after his family had exhausted all options provided through his school.

“Coming to the clinic has made me feel more secure about the help I’m able to find him. His motivation has improved and the clinic helps me find other services for him.” Martinez says of the results she has seen in her son.

Practice Makes Perfect

Social workers are often the unsung heroes of our communities. Tireless hours in unknown environments are just part of their day-to-day. CSULB’s School of Social Work is looking to make those that emerge from the program equipped for any scenario that comes their way.

Part of this extra level of attention and preparedness comes through the stability that grants and stipends provide. The California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC), awards stipends to undergraduate and graduate social work students in exchange for a commitment to work in a public child welfare agency. The federal funds are provided through Title IV-E specifically for child welfare training.  Since the inception of the program in 1993, CSULB has provided over $16 million in financial support for social work students.

Another aspect of preparedness includes a unique simulation lab that provides new tools for training social work interns. The simulated home is a laboratory where faculty can collaborate with consultants and other experts to help train the next generation of social workers.

“It’s a different world than sitting in a classroom pretending to be doing a visit.” Nancy Meyer-Adams, Director of the School of Social Work, says of the lab.  “It is a safe space for students to practice their skills before meeting with families that may need their help.”

Dr. Meyer-Adams went on to say, “the very act of knocking on a door and not knowing who or what scenario is behind the door is something students benefit from. When students are in the lab, there’s always a coach or mentor within the scene who is able to provide immediate feedback about the scene and the intern’s actions.”

“The safety of our students is paramount. As an intern or social worker, every situation is unique and we want everyone to have the right tools to be as safe as possible and the lab adds to that,” James Ferreira, Director of the Child Welfare Training Center says.

Expanding Our Reach

On a hot summer day, groups of ten teens work against the clock to create a stand-alone paper house with basic materials: masking tape and newspaper. Without scissors hands and teeth furiously rip strips of adhesive that are quickly snapped up by their teammates. An exercise in resources, teamwork, engineering and geometry marches on. When the buzzer marks the end of the allotted time, neither group has anything resembling a functional house, but both teams are beaming and nearly giddy with the rush of adrenaline from the test.

These groups are part of a week of learning under the PATHS program — Pursuing Academics Through Higher Educational Studies — that hosts about 120 children of migrant workers, introducing them to campus life and hopefully sparking a desire for college.

The CSULB College Assistance Migrant Program, which helps first-time freshmen from migrant backgrounds transition from high school to the college campus, oversees the week of activities.

“It’s amazing what youth can do when they’re allowed to be creative and fully be themselves. We try to give them the tools and the confidence, they do the rest.” PATHS Volunteer Melissa Chavez, child and human development major, says of her experience with the camp.

Francisco De La Paz, 17, still deciding between Theater Arts or Film as a major, hopes to attend college in the fall. “This week has made me more outgoing and definitely more of a team player. I think it has prepared us for the college experience.” And how does he like the dorms the campers have been staying in through out camp? “It’s a lot of fun, but the beds are pretty hard.”

“We already have had several students submit their intent to apply to CSULB, asking for assistance with the CSU Mentor application, as well as with financial aid process,” Director Rafael Topete says.

Topete says that the value of the PATHS program is wide reaching.

“By becoming aware of the struggles of some of our students, faculty and staff become more empathetic and willing to assist,” Topete says.