Getting into college — the right college for a students’ needs — is a complicated and comprehensive process that starts as early as kindergarten. Teachers, parents, and school counselors work diligently to ensure that all students, regardless of their backgrounds, excel in the areas needed in order to one day take the standardized testing that’ll predict how the rest of their future will play out. Or at least that’s the hope.

But the reality is that many students, and particularly those who come from low-income families, often start their educational journey at a disadvantage. That’s because the lowest-income neighborhoods aren’t afforded the per-pupil-spending (about $3,000 less than the national average across the state) necessary to ensure that students have access to great teachers, college advisors, rich extra-curricular activities or even mental health counselors — all of which help to nurture a well-equipped student who can graduate prepared for the rigors of a college education and be able navigate through its course.

In the wake of the college entry fraud scandal, United Way of Greater Los Angeles remains committed to ensuring educational equity for all of our young people, particularly those from low-income communities.

"Through our Young Civic Leaders program, we are privileged to elevate local students’ voices so that they can directly express their needs for college-readiness to public education decision-makers. The skill-building opportunities and social capital development that the program offers builds the students’ sense of identity and their confidence in their ability to learn and to succeed," said Jennifer Cano, United Way of Greater Los Angeles' Director of Education. "We help to connect them to financial resources and social and academic supports to help them persist in college."

The fact is that 3.6 million high school students will graduate in the United States this year and on average, about 70% of them will enroll in a two or four-year degree program. But according to the National Center for Education Statistics, they have a 45% chance of not graduating within six years or even at all. In Los Angeles, only half of high school seniors will even graduate with the courses and experience they need to enter college or the workforce.

Many students who hail from low-income neighborhoods were born into cycles of poverty perpetuated by hard-working but underpaid family members. Overcoming poverty becomes very difficult when it’s all that surrounds you. Education can change everything for these students, which can in turn create future leaders that will have a positive impact on the growth of the neighborhoods that most need the community’s support.

We’re urging the Los Angeles community to translate anger around this scandal into action. To learn more, contact United Way of Greater L.A.’s education team.