The Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation

Mount Saint Mary’s University Community Student Ambassadors Program

Grant Information
Categories Education
Location United States
Cycle Year 2020
Organization Information
Organization Name (provided by applicant) Mount Saint Mary's University
Organization Name (provided by automatic EIN validation)
Contact Information
Contact Name Megan Uebelacker
Phone 3107095610
10 Chester Place
Los Angeles
Additional Information
Used for Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU) is requesting $10,000 from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation to support our Community Student Ambassadors Program. Established in 1991, the program supports and inspires youth in underrepresented schools to achieve a college education through peer mentoring and academic assistance provided by MSMU undergraduate students known as Ambassadors. Grant funds will help pay for our current corps of six Ambassadors, who – despite the COVID-19 pandemic – are providing weekly workshops, outreach presentations, and individualized tutoring and academic counseling to hundreds of youth in underserved communities.
Benefits Grant funds will have a multiplier effect, benefiting the world by directly supporting MSMU undergraduates – young women of color from underrepresented backgrounds – who are, in turn, inspiring and supporting youth striving to rise from under-resourced communities. Ambassadors receive leadership training and experience that build their capacity for bringing positive change in the future, while middle and high school students receive support from an inspirational peer role model, thereby increasing their chances of success in school and life. With COVID-19 bringing unheard-of challenges to secondary education, and the loss of other funding for the program, support from the Dougherty Foundation would take on new meaning and impact.
Proposal Description BACKGROUND: MSMU is a federally-designated Hispanic-Serving Institution proud to serve a population that is rare in higher education: ethnically diverse, female, first-generation college students, largely from economically underrepresented backgrounds. More than half of our undergraduate students are the first in their families to go to college. We have received national recognition for our programs in the health sciences, teacher preparation, leadership, and research on gender equity. In the current guides to “Best Colleges,” MSMU is ranked #1 in Social Mobility among regional western universities by U.S. News & World Report and #3 in MONEY Magazine’s ranking of Most Transformative Colleges nationwide.

THE NEED: Recognizing our unique capacity to help underrepresented students succeed, MSMU created the Community Student Ambassador Program in 1991 to address key obstacles that first-generation college students face: the lack of educational role models, and information on educational options and college requirements. To help students navigate these obstacles, MSMU trains and sends undergraduates, known as Ambassadors, to area middle and high schools and community youth organizations to assist counselors in advising students about college. Through this invaluable outreach program, MSMU students develop their leadership skills and a commitment to service – two core tenets of an MSMU education – while helping to strengthen the high-school-to-college pipeline and earning a stipend to cover some of their college expenses.

THE BENEFICIARIES: The majority of the students served by the program live in south and central Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, which are neighborhoods where there are low levels of college accessibility, and the students are often come from families where no one has attended college. Some sites in which our Ambassadors operate have other college assistance programs, but the Community Student Ambassador Program is unique in that it utilizes peers who are often from the same school or part of town as they are serving. In addition to providing essential information and academic support, they serve as role models who show that, “If I can do it, so can you!”

The program is beneficial to the aspirations of the Ambassadors themselves, in terms of growth as leaders and academically. They participate in a number of activities outside of their assigned sites, speaking to hundreds of middle school students at events such as Expanding Your Horizons and the Los Angeles Team Mentoring College Workshop Series. They play leadership roles in MSMU's Annual President's “Invitation to Serve”, where hundreds of members of the Mount community, including alumnae, current students, faculty, and staff, come together to serve the community at nonprofits such as Heal the Bay, Alexandria House, and the Los Angeles Food Bank, among others. A recent survey conducted of program participants from 2017 to 2020 found that the majority of Ambassadors achieve high academic benchmarks: many Ambassadors pursue more than one degree while at MSMU; the average Ambassador GPA is 3.37; their persistence rate is 89%; and their graduation rate is 79% (all of which is higher than the average MSMU student).

KEY ACTIVITIES: Ambassadors are full-time traditional undergraduate students who work 10 to 15 hours per week at an assigned site, which is either a school or a nonprofit-based after-school program. Under the supervision of a guidance counselor, the Ambassadors facilitate large-group presentations and workshops about various aspects of college preparation, such as choosing a college or university, applying for financial aid and college admission, and researching scholarships; and, they provide one-on-one assistance with homework, college application forms and other college concerns students may have. All Ambassadors receive NASPA’s Certified Peer Educator (CPE) Training (see attached curriculum), as well as training to familiarize them with the college and financial aid application processes. They are also coached on how to work with at-risk youth and students who may be experiencing personal crises. Ambassadors often use their own experiences with college life to help youth envision what college attendance might mean for them. Ambassadors receive ongoing guidance and mentorship through monthly training sessions and one-on-one meetings with program managers and their site supervisors.

Current and past partner locations include A Place Called Home (South Central Los Angeles); Bishop Conaty – Our Lady of Loretto High School (Koreatown); Crenshaw High School; Downtown Business High School; Franklin High School (Highland Park); Immaculate Conception (downtown); Manual Arts High School (South Los Angeles); Sacred Heart (Lincoln Heights); Santa Monica Police Activities League; St. Mary's Academy (Inglewood); and Variety Boys and Girls Club (Boyle Heights)

When Los Angeles County shut down in-person instruction at many of their locations, the Ambassadors worked rapidly with their partners to ensure they could continue to serve the community. They helped supervisors at the partner sites develop Zoom-based online programming, researched scholarships, and kept students up-to-date on which colleges extended their acceptance deadlines. Ambassadors also quickly shifted to working with their students virtually, both in large class settings and one-on-one.

EVALUATION: The Community Student Ambassador Program is housed in the Division of Student Affairs. Student Affairs staff oversee the Ambassadors, the overall implementation of the program, and evaluate the program in several ways:
• Student self-monitoring: Students complete surveys about their educational and career goals, and monitor their progress toward those goals as they work with an Ambassador.
• Monthly reporting: Ambassadors submit reports approved by site supervisors (usually high school guidance counselors) detailing their site visits (number of students they assisted, type of assistance they provided, any concerns or issues identified, etc.). The site supervisors are in ongoing communication with MSMU Program Managers to provide feedback.
• To provide an opportunity to reflect on the past year and set goals for the coming year, Program Managers hold an end-of-year evaluation meeting with Ambassadors.

BUDGET: To ensure the Ambassadors are compensated for their dedication and hard work, and in recognition of the fact that they themselves are working students, MSMU allocates approximately $5,000 per Ambassador per year ($2,500/semester). This includes a wage of $15/hour for 10 – 15 hours/week for each 16-week semester. In 2021, we hope to recruit additional Ambassadors to our current corps. As noted above, COVID-19 restrictions have made engagement with schools much more difficult, and the pandemic has also exacerbated inequities in our educational system. Students in under-resourced schools in low-income communities are struggling to keep on pace to graduation. Therefore, the Ambassadors provide a unique and valuable service as they are on the ground, in the community, providing a safety net for students who might otherwise be lost in the shuffle of remote learning.

REQUEST: A $10,000 grant from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation to the Community Student Ambassador Program would be an important contribution at this time. The pandemic has created enormous financial challenges for universities generally, and the Community Student Ambassador Program is currently in a hiatus period from its prior funders. We do not have other external support for the program this academic year. We are deeply grateful for the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation’s past support and appreciate your confidence and investment in our students.