During session two of our Community College Mentorship Program in February, the mentees and mentors who are part of the program learned about the value of the cultural capital most of us possess. They were made aware of how it contributes towards building community wealth when used as an asset in the workplace.

Community Wealth Building is an economic development model that transforms local economies based on communities having direct ownership and control of their assets.

Centered on that vision, the mentorship program is part of our Community College Success Initiative (CCSI), which aims to support doubling the transfer and graduation rates for BIPOC community college students from Los Angeles Community College (LACC) and Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC) to increase transfer and graduation rate, so they can contribute to building wealth in their communities.

As first-generation BIPOC college students, many of them were particularly excited to gain awareness of their cultural capital.

“I think about culture because we often talk about the things that first generation of students don’t have, but instead I think of it from an asset-based point of view. The culture, the idea of community cultural wealth, and how we’re bringing knowledge, skills, and determination into the workplace. I think that’s something extremely valuable,” said Paul Carter, Assistant Director at the Black Resource Center, at Cal State Long Beach.

Carter inspired mentees and mentors with his presentation ‘The Power of First-Gen Professionals of Color.’ He shared with them about the capital they inherited from their families’ cultural backgrounds and the history of resilience from their communities, which can be used as assets in their professional fields.

Carter explained about six types of cultural capital:

1. Aspirational capital: Hopes, and dreams parents pass on to their youth.
2. Linguistic capital: Being multilingual, having communication skills, storytelling, art, and music.
3. Familiar capital: Knowledge, learning, and practices that are nurtured through family.
4. Social capital: Social bonds and the resources that can be accessed through themselves.
5. Navigational capital: Knowledge and resiliency to navigate barriers.
6. Resistance capital: Skills learned by communities over generations of resistance to oppression.

As a hands-on activity, Carter asked mentees to make a list of their cultural capital and their mentors to share how that cultural wealth can be transferred into skills in the workplace, based on their personal experiences.

“It is important for us to include these workshops into our Mentorship Program as they offer invaluable lessons and help reshape how students perceive their strengths,” said Martha Maciel Serratos, Education Programs & Policy Manager at United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “As first-gen BIPOC people, we frequently overlook the richness of our backgrounds and experiences as valuable assets in professional settings. Our upbringing instills qualities within us, yet we often don’t think of building it into the workplace.”

The Mentorship Program allows students to connect with a mentor one-on-one and receive professional guidance to support their professional and personal growth through a series of workshops. The program’s goal is to bolster student retention and increase transfer rates and certificate completion as well as offer guided career exploration.

“I think mentorship is a very important building block of growth and development because mentors can instill in their mentees values and help them learn things that they might never get to know if not for having that relationship,” Carter said about this program. 

At United Way of Greater Los Angeles, we believe that every neighborhood in L.A. is full of dreamers and doers, including community college students, who have a vision for what their community could be. That’s why we partner with LACC and LATTC on this initiative, as well as other local partners, to create community-owned approaches that enhance community wealth and power across all communities to change the future for this generation and the next. 

Visit here to learn more about the Community College Success Initiative and all our community wealth initiatives. 


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