Fennie Community Fund
Legal-name: Long Beach BLAST
Address: 4201 LONG BEACH BLVD STE 201
City: LONG BEACH
Ranking-title: Liliana Real, Executive Director
First-name: Liliana Real
Title: Executive Director
Textarea-499: Support the homeless youth served by BLAST’s Academic Mentoring Program and Bridge to Success to help them gain academic and personal success.
What-is-project: In central and downtown Long Beach, nearly 8,000 children are living in poverty and close to 1,600 are living in deep poverty. In response to our community’s need, Long Beach BLAST’s two innovative programs, the Academic Mentoring Program (AMP) and Bridge to Success, were created to bring lifelong personal and academic success to students living in poverty and homelessness. The Academic Mentoring Program (AMP) harnesses the enthusiasm and community spirit of local college students to provide personal mentoring to over 600 at-risk youth in Long Beach, along with service-learning opportunities for the college students and one-on-one mentoring and personal academic support for the youth. At-risk youth who have been mentored, tutored, supported, and enriched more likely to improve their academic performance, experience higher self-esteem, possess positive social attitudes, and forge healthier relationships. In 2009, Long Beach BLAST created the Bridge to Success Program to address the staggering dropout crisis of underserved 11th and 12th grade students in Long Beach. This is the only program in Long Beach to provide in-school recovery classes and ancillary services to high school students who are the most “at-risk” for dropping out because they face difficult issues and consequences of poverty, including homelessness, pressure from gangs, lack of parental involvement, and violence. Bridge to Success brings over 300 students the opportunity to rebuild their education and finish high school, as well as open their world to new possibilities with college and career opportunities.
Homelessness has a profound effect on the children served in Long Beach BLAST, but it often goes undocumented within the district. When students join either of our programs, it’s because they are desperately in need of academic and personal support – they’re displaying chronic absenteeism, high suspension rates, or failing grades. The information received about any student’s living situation is from word of mouth. Many students do not reveal their living situation if it is dire because they are afraid of consequences such as removal from the area or foster care. However, many students confide this information to their BLAST Team Leader and/or mentors. For example, one student from Bridge to Success was homeless and drifting to and from different friends’ garages as a place of refuge. We were required to disclose this information to the school and once he was confronted with the situation, he stopped coming to school because he didn’t want to be placed in foster care. This case was last year. The student is now 18+ and on his own.
We have kids who have been and/or are homeless. We have kids who live with extended family because they can’t afford to live as a single family. We have kids who are even leaving the city because their parents can no longer afford to live in Long Beach. When kids have such an unstable home environment, it becomes detrimental to their ability to succee
How-will-you-succeed: Currently, all BLAST programs utilize a multi-faceted evaluation which includes both qualitative and quantitative methods of evaluation. This assessment tool was redefined and redeveloped in 2015 in consultation with Dr. Beth Manke of California State University—Long Beach. Qualitative data will measure changes in knowledge, attitude, and behavior as well as, program impact both prior to and after participation in BLAST’s programs. Quantitative data reflects the numbers of youth served in a given program from start to finish, as well as academic gains as reported by teachers. Sign-in sheets and attendance records will help us to verify our quantitative data. Pre- and post-test surveys will be administered, collected, analyzed, and computed to identify our level of program impact and success.
The collection of both sets of data will be used to assist the Executive Director and the Director of Programs in documenting the program challenges and successes resulting from the implementation of BLAST’s programs as well as the impact on participating youth. Teachers/site supervisors are also included in the evaluation process. We ask them to complete surveys assessing changes resulting from students’ participation in BLAST’s program. The evaluation categories that are measured include; academics, behavior, attitude, self-esteem, attendance, and motivation. Data is reviewed and communicated on a biyearly basis (once per semester).
Long Beach BLAST has been in operation for nearly 20 years and is fortunate to have a broad base of community support. We are confident in our ability to sustain the project. In addition to our traditional sources of funding (individual, corporate, and foundation), Long Beach BLAST seeks funding from diverse sources including individual contributions, grant support, and special events in order to maintain a high quality, consistent level of programming.
Who-are-you: Long Beach BLAST was created in 2000 by Jean Egan. The vision for the organization grew out of Egan’s work as chairwoman of the Education and Youth Task Force as part of the City of Long Beach’s Strategic Plan. During the strategic planning process, task force members noted several recurring problems facing Long Beach including: a need to improve academic competence and graduation rates; lack of afterschool programming and youth-mentoring and a deficit of college-student engagement in the local community. To put these solutions into action, Egan made connections with after-school program providers at local universities and became involved with research for a preplanning grant given to the Long Beach YMCA out of which the concept for BLAST was conceived — to pair college-student mentors with youth in after-school programs. In September 2000, the Academic Mentoring Program was launched. In 2009, BLAST launched Bridge to Success, focusing on improving high school graduation rates to address the staggering dropout crisis of underserved 11th and 12th grade students in Long Beach.
Liliana Real, Executive Director, joined Long Beach BLAST in the Fall of 2016. Liliana previously worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters at both the local and national level for 13 years where she managed the largest youth mentoring program in California, while more than doubling the number of youth and volunteers who participated, in less than a five year period – served over 2,000 youth annually. She also implemented “Destination College” a program designed to increase the number of mentees to pursue higher education. Liliana also worked with the Development and Marketing department at the LA Firemen’s Relief Association, Widows, Orphans and Disabled Firemen’s Fund.
Long Beach BLAST’s programming strives to provide quality support to at-risk youth to increase their academic potential, improve their attitudes towards school, build their confidence and self-esteem, and help them find hope in their future. Long Beach BLAST embraces five emphasis areas to accomplish this mission: (1) Empower students with knowledge to reach academic grade-level proficiencies; (2) increase awareness about basic life skills and expand social intelligence to promote self-sufficiency; (3) promote the pursuit and maintenance of healthy relationships; (4) establish effective goals and provide support so youth are successful in obtaining those goals; and (5) cultivate a positive, future-thinking mindset infused with passion and perseverance. We do this through our two programs, the Academic Mentoring Program and Bridge to Success. The mission of Long Beach BLAST is to improve academic and personal success for at-risk youth, through collaboration and innovative approaches to mentoring and learning.
Long Beach BLAST is a founding member of the Long Beach Mentor Connection, is partnered with the City of Long Beach through My Brother’s Keeper Location Action Plan and serves on the MBK Advisory Council. Pa