Archive | July, 2014

President Barak Obama Visits LA Trade Tech

24 Jul

LA Trade TechFrom 89.3 KPCC…

The White House statement is rather bland. It says President Obama will speak at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College Thursday to address “the importance of job-driven skills training.” The stop comes amid two fundraisers with ticket prices as high as $32,400.

With so many options for a Southern California appearance, why Trade Tech, a public two-year college located south of downtown, just a few blocks from Staples Center?

“They have been called a game changer in higher education,” says Estela Mara Bensimon, co-director of the Center for Urban Education at the USC Rossier School of Education.

Trade Tech is integrating academic departments and “embedding” counselors to help students more easily navigate the curriculum, says Bensimon. “These students at Trade Tech need a lot of support in basic skills development.”

“Too often, schools blame students for being underprepared,” Bensimon says.

For a Democratic president who has talked a lot about how community colleges can help minority and low-income students, it’s a perfect venue. Obama wants community colleges to produce an additional five million graduates in the next five years, though efforts to pump billions more federal dollars into the effort have been stymied by deficit-conscious Republicans.

The stop at Trade Tech takes the president out of the ritzy neighborhoods of his fundraisers and places him in front of many people who are struggling to complete their education and find a way to make a living. This is Los Angeles, where the gap between the rich and the poor is wide. By going to Trade Tech, the president traverses that gap.

More than 15,000 students attend Trade Tech, one of the nine colleges in the Los Angeles Community College District.  Fifty-five percent are Latino and 27-percent are African American. One quarter of the students are over the age of 35, says Bensimon, who is conducting research on the school as part of a Ford Foundation grant.

Trade Tech has a wide variety of programs for jobs in healthcare, the building trades, fashion, automotive mechanics and culinary science. The school also recently instituted a new program for military veterans. It’s a seven-week “Apprenticeship Preparation Boot Camp” for a career in construction.

“I’m not surprised President Obama chose Trade Tech,” says Bensimon.

“Having the president come to Los Angeles to a place like Trade Tech is really important,” says June Bayha of WestEd, a national advocacy organization that focuses on equity. “The president going to a community college shows that there are a lot of different options available – not just four-year colleges.”

“In the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience,” President Obama said earlier this year. “We will not fill those jobs – or keep those jobs on our shores – without the training offered by community colleges.”

President Obama is scheduled to speak at Trade Tech around 1:15 pm on Thursday.

Of course touting the benefits of community colleges is not the only reason for Obama’s visit to Los Angeles. Earlier Thursday, he attends a roundtable discussion at the home of Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino. Just 30 people are attending, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Tickets are $32,400 per person, the maximum allowable under federal law.

The president is due to arrive in Los Angeles on Wednesday for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the home of Grey’s Anatomy television producer Shonda Rhimes. Tickets range from $1,000 to $32,400.


Dr. Bobbi McDaniel of Valley Leaves for Doha, Qatar

16 Jul

Bobbi McDanielDr. Bobbi McDaniel, Director of the Upward Bound Program at Los Angeles Valley College, is leaving for a new position in the Middle East.  She will be embarking upon her lifelong dream to work and live abroad.  McDaniel will be training new teachers in Doha, Qatar, home to Education City, an area devoted to research and education.

McDaniel received a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech communications at University of Nevada-Reno, a Master of Arts degree in education from Fordham University, and a Doctorate of Education degree in organizational leadership from Pepperdine University.  She presented “The Politics of Knowledge and Schooling in the Global Era” at New York University’s International Education Conference in 2011.  A member of the LACCD Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA), McDaniel has always demonstrated strong leadership in uplifting and empowering African Americans as well as other disenfranchised ethnic groups.  She was the president of the black student union organization at University of Nevada-Reno and had begun creating a BFSA chapter at LA Valley College.

In addition to her work at the community college level, McDaniel is the founder and director of Sister Circle, an intervention program designed for African American high school girls. The program addresses the academic, social and emotional development of young girls impacted by the social issues of attending high school in poor, urban neighborhoods in Los Angeles.   The program provides students with a safe space to meet and discuss their concerns, learn about African American traditions and heritage, and engage with motivational speakers and mentors.

The Sister Circle program was a response to a race riot that erupted on the campus at Santee High School in 2005 and provided support for Black female students at the school who wanted their voices and concerns to be heard.  McDaniel, at the time, was an integral part of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission as an Education Policy Advisor, and had been brought in to assist with resolution efforts at the school. She remembers arriving on the scene at Santee High School to find a group of African American girls confined by police to the library.

Those same girls would become the first members of the Sister Circle program.

The number of African-American students only made up less than 7 percent of the student body, forcing Santee to end the program.  However, in the fall of 2006, the principal of Thomas Jefferson High School at the time, Juan Flecha, invited McDaniel to restart the program at Jefferson High School, where it has been ever since.  For the past eight years, the Sister Circle program has continued to provide students with a safe space to discuss academic and personal issues and enable them to move closer to their life goals.

McDaniel has been a great asset to the Los Angeles Community Colleges District, and to the academic community at large.  We wish her the best.

Visit the Qatar Foundation at for more information about the burgeoning and innovative educational communities and developments of the country.  You can also view a PBS video about Education City here.