Mann UCLA Community School celebrated its first graduating class of high school seniors, all 38 of whom are planning to attend college this fall.

When the grades 6-12 school in South Los Angeles opened its ninth grade in 2017, only 6% of the neighborhood’s residents had college degrees.

Christine Shen, director of the UCLA Community Schools Initiatives, said that establishing the Keck College Center on the UCLA Mann campus has been instrumental in propelling its students toward graduation and higher education.

“Mann UCLA is resourced differently than our other [community] school, and so I’ve been able to fill the space of counseling, supporting this idea of getting mentors because that’s what our kids needed,” Shen said. “There’s a lot of learning involved and I feel really grateful that I had that opportunity because I really got to know what the landscape of college counseling is and what are the ways that our kids need even deeper support.”

Ashley Oliva Funes and Xavier Alejo were the valedictorians, both with a 4.0 GPAs.

The UCLA Department of Education began its connection with Horace Mann Middle School in 2017, through a partnership between UCLA and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Jamya Maddox has attended Mann UCLA Community School since the sixth grade. She said the partnership with UCLA exposed her and her fellow students to many previously unconsidered opportunities and goals.

“A lot of kids in our community really don’t get that exposure,” she said. “They don’t really know what they want, because they’ve never seen it before. You can’t really discover who you are, and what you like, and what you want out of life unless you’re exposed to different things.”

Shen says that she and her research team will follow the Class of 2021 through their first year of college, to continue Mann UCLA’s support through that transition.

Read the full story.