African Americans, both young and old, are turning to community colleges in record numbers for an education during these challenging economic times and there is one organization that is providing a ray of hope for these talented students - Resources for Educational and Employment Opportunities (REEO).
REEO is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit whose mission is to empower community college students with the opportunity to transfer to a four-year university, to earn a college degree and to obtain a job upon graduation by providing financial, educational and professional development resources. REEO's co-founders Scott Stimpfel and Anthony Jefferson are Pasadena City College alumni who have dedicated themselves to helping socio-economically disadvantaged and underserved community college students achieve their academic and professional dreams.
"As an African American college graduate I can attest to the difficulties that many African American students encounter while pursuing a higher education degree," says Jefferson, "however, these hurdles can be overcome and REEO is providing the resources to overcome them."
REEO has developed a unique approach that is vastly different from that of most organizations and foundations assisting community college students.
"REEO does not throw money at community college students; close our eyes and hope they will transfer and be successful at a university," said Stimpfel. Through a rigorous curriculum REEO prepares and empowers community college students to excel at top research universities, compete for internships at prominent corporations, and to be leaders in society. "I will put any Rising Star that has finished our program up against the best students from Harvard," says Stimpfel.
As part of the curriculum, Rising Stars have an opportunity to apply for internships with corporations, which usually lead to full-time jobs after graduation. Dale Pattugalan, a former PCC student and current University of San Diego student, earned an internship with KPMG as a Rising Star at Pasadena City College. Now she has a full-time offer from KPMG and will start her job in the audit division when she graduates in spring 2010.
"REEO is the gift that keeps on giving. Never have I witnessed a program that teaches students so many important life lessons. From resume writing, to interviewing skills, to networking, REEO has truly acted as a catalyst to my overall development as a student and as a future businesswoman. This program gives us the tools we need to face the world and the confidence we need to conquer it," said Dale.
Not all corporations have been willing to support community college students. "Most corporations turn their backs," says Stimpfel, "fortunately there are innovative corporations like KPMG, Bank of America and Juice Monkey Productions who have made significant commitments to empowering our talented students." Stimpfel is continuously looking to develop more corporate partnerships to help community college students.
In addition to resources, REEO provides its students with influential African American role models and mentors. Two key REEO leaders are African Americans: REEO's West Los Angeles Community College Leadership Director, Tony Gamble and REEO's Pasadena City College Leadership Director, Dr. Christopher Jimenez y West.
"Foundations, politicians and the education establishment always talk a big game about helping to close the achievement gap for African American students," says Jefferson, "REEO has transferred 100% of its students, so I would challenge these groups to recognize REEO's work and help support talented community college students."