Social Impact

USC partners with College Track to promote school success for first-gen high school students of color

The national nonprofit’s new Crenshaw center is just 1½ miles from USC’s University Park Campus — and Trojan Olympian Allyson Felix has joined its board to boost participation in the neighborhood where she grew up.

January 12, 2022 Ron Mackovich-Rodriguez

The promise of college success is closer than ever for young people in the Crenshaw district, now that College Track has opened a new center in the historic neighborhood.

Just a mile and a half from USC’s University Park Campus, College Track Crenshaw is supported by a new partnership with USC.

The College Track program, which also has centers in Boyle Heights and Watts, helps students of color get to and through college. Nationwide, College Track students graduate from college at a rate that is double the national average for first-generation students from low-income communities.

Advancing educational opportunity and equity is at the core of USC’s mission.

Samuel Garrison, USC senior vice president
for university relations

“Advancing educational opportunity and equity is at the core of USC’s mission,” said Samuel Garrison, senior vice president for university relations. “The university continues to deepen partnerships that expand higher education access for families in South Los Angeles and the Eastside.

College Track an important partner

“USC offers over 100 community-serving educational access programs, including the landmark [Leslie and William McMorrow] Neighborhood Academic Initiative, which supports thousands of local students annually. College Track is an important partner in expanding efforts to ensure that every child can achieve a college education.”

College Track Crenshaw welcomed its first cohort of 60 students from three local high schools — Dorsey, LA Promise Charter and Crenshaw — in the fall. By 2024, the center will serve 250 students.

USC alumna and Olympian Allyson Felix, who grew up in the Crenshaw district, joined the College Track advisory board last July.

“There is no greater accelerator of opportunity than education,” Felix said. “Particularly for students who will be the first in their families to graduate from college, a degree opens up a life of choice, power and self-agency.

“I am thrilled to be part of expanding College Track’s work to democratize potential in my home community of Crenshaw.”

In L.A., 98% of College Track students attend two- or four-year college

In the Los Angeles region, 98% of College Track students enrolled in a two- or four-year college. Almost all identify as students of color and 96% will be the first in their families to graduate from college.

“Part of our work is connecting students to colleges where they will be set up for success,” said John Lee, College Track’s executive director for the Los Angeles region. “They’re full of promise and talent and deserve every opportunity to graduate from the amazing universities in their hometowns like USC.

“I am confident our partnership will help to expand the pipeline of College Track students who apply to USC, and for the university community to be strengthened by the presence and experiences of our students.”

The partnership is part of the university’s longtime commitment to college access for students who attend Los Angeles public schools. That commitment includes the new Teacher Preparation Residency, a $1.5 million full-ride scholarship plan that supports young teachers dedicated to educational equity and diversity. The program will address a growing teacher shortage in L.A. schools, as well as learning losses that occurred during the pandemic economic shutdown.