The Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative is a network of organizations working together to strengthen the capacity of the nonprofit sector and increase civic engagement in Southeast LA. Founded in 2011 by eleven core organizations, the Collaborative seeks to revitalize the communities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Florence-Firestone, Huntington Park, Lynwood, Maywood, South Gate, Vernon, and Walnut Park.
Our “Collaborative Spotlight” series highlights the work and impact of our individual Collaborative members, each of whom have a long history of providing service to the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) region and advocating for its community members. In today’s post, we highlight the work and impact of East Los Angeles College.
Seeds of Change
Perhaps no other asset in the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) region inspires as much hope for the future as our community’s younger population. Motivated, passionate, and energetic, SELA’s youth are proving that they are prepared to become tomorrow’s regional leaders if they receive the resources they need to fulfill their potential. As described in the 710 Corridor Asset Mapping Report, the younger populations in SELA are attending post-secondary institutions at higher rates than their parents. And it’s likely this trend will only grow stronger in the long term, as college enrollment is rising in the 18 to 24-year-old age cohort in Southeast LA.
It’s clear that SELA’s youth are waiting in the wings for their time to shine and lead the region to increased prosperity. However, it must be acknowledged that our youth face significant barriers on their path to success. While the youth are motivated and energetic, as it stands, the local base of public and private post-secondary institutions is not adequate to meet their needs. Left unaddressed, this could mean that SELA’s future leaders might never reach their goals. Unfortunately, there are few educational institutions in Southeast LA that understand the needs of SELA’s students and are focused on student-centered instruction.
ELAC sign outside the East Los Angeles College Monterrey Park campus
Building Capacity for Tomorrow’s Leaders
Among these challenging educational circumstances, there are bright spots: organizations that have served the community for decades with a focus on helping SELA’s students achieve their education and career goals. One of the brightest spots in the region is today’s spotlighted SELA Collaborative member: East Los Angeles College (ELAC). Located in Monterrey Park, ELAC has been serving the communities of Southeast LA and surrounding areas since 1945. Since its inception, ELAC has set a goal of not only being a dynamic educational institution, but also a pillar of the surrounding communities. With its mission to empower students to achieve their educational goals, expand their individual potential, and successfully pursue their aspirations for a better future, ELAC has been a staple of the SELA community for residents looking for affordable, accessible higher education.
More than simply an educational institution, however, ELAC has historically sought to provide services that empower all community members, not just SELA’s younger populations. For example, their Veterans Center assists returning veterans in selecting programs of study that help them transition to the academic paths and careers that their experience and service warrant. ELAC also offers a variety of workshops that benefit organizations in the community, such as a nonprofit management and leadership series that leads to a certification. Additionally, ELAC provides preparatory classes that support and empower the region’s immigrant and Latino population, such as English as a Second Language classes and workshops to help prep community members for citizenship and the workforce. Through their variety of offered classes and workshops, ELAC has shown a keen understanding of the needs and challenges facing the residents of the SELA communities.
Panorama shot of the ELAC Monterrey Park campus
Perhaps most importantly, ELAC understands the need for more robust facilities and campuses that serve SELA’s younger students. In fact, in order to accommodate all the students seeking higher education in the region, ELAC opened a campus in South Gate, which serves as an extension of the main Monterrey Park campus. Initial development on this campus was led by a seven-city consortium in response to an expressed need for a formal education program in the southeast corridor of Los Angeles. Thanks to this satellite campus, thousands of students in Southeast LA gained an option for quality, accessible education in their home communities. “Having a satellite campus in the Southeast communities has greatly benefitted the entire region,” says ELAC Dean of Workforce Development and Continuing Education Al Rios. “The presence of a community college physically located in the community has made attending college more accessible for many people in these cities.” The campus, which features state-of-the-art classrooms and hosts classes on subjects as varied as Administration of Justice and Computer Basics, has served as a pillar of South Gate and surrounding communities, and it will no doubt continue do so for a very long time.
A Key Voice in the SELA Region
As a member of the SELA Collaborative, ELAC has been an invaluable voice in discussions pertaining to issues in the SELA region, lending its expertise and providing input that has influenced the Collaborative’s programming. Dean Al Rios has served as a key voice in the Collaborative’s committee meetings. “It’s been great being able to represent ELAC in the Collaborative,” says Al. “Having been in the community so long, we’ve developed a great understanding of both the needs and challenges of SELA. So we’ve been very happy to advise and share our expertise regarding key issues in the region.”
As a lifelong resident of SELA himself, Dean Rios intimately understands the importance of the type of work the Collaborative does. Growing up in Boyle Heights, he saw great need in his community, including a lack of resources and spaces for the community to come together and build a sense of shared identity. He credits the All Nations Neighborhood Center, a now defunct community center that was once a staple of the Boyle Heights community, for giving him direction and purpose in his youth. “We really need spaces like that in SELA, where the community can come together to share resources and let their voice be heard. And the unfortunate reality is that we currently don’t have many of those spaces here.”
Dean Al Rios in conversation with mark! Lopez at a SELA Collaborative meeting
Despite the current lack of resources in Southeast Los Angeles, Dean Rios remains hopeful for the future. And the source of his optimism is the great work being done in the region to raise the SELA community’s capacity, not only by the Collaborative, but also by the other great organizations serving the community. In this work, he sees the seeds of a movement for change led by SELA’s talented and energetic younger residents. “The young people who attend our schools are very committed and talented. And it’s great to see that organizations are stepping up and providing them the resources they need because, ultimately, they will be the future leaders here in Southeast LA.” And of course, ELAC will play a key role supporting these future leaders by continuing their tradition of educational excellence, equity, and access in the SELA region.–
ELAC Delegates in the Southeast Los Angeles Collaborative
Dean of Continuing Education and Workforce Development (Monterrey Park)
Dean of Continuing Education and Workforce Development (South Gate)
Interested in Learning More About ELAC?
ELAC provides a wide variety of educational programs for its students, including preparatory classes such as Computer Basics and English as a Second Language. If you are interested in learning more about ELAC’s programs and their admissions process, please visit their prospective students page.