El Monte group encourages lifelong learning and a college education

A photo of Jennifer Cobian

A headshot of Jennifer Cobian.

Alyssah Hall, Community News Reporter

It takes parents, students, teachers, administrators, and even local nonprofits to promote college readiness among first-generation students and others.

That’s where El Monte Promise Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded 10 years ago, comes in.

It aims to create a “college-ready culture” in El Monte. It also encourages literacy and financial understanding among students. It works with parents such as local schools and even Cal State LA students, who help the foundation with the school district and community data projects to help to identify needs and trends.

Jennifer Cobian, executive director of the foundation, recently spoke with UT Community News about the impact of the foundation.

Since the foundation’s goal is “to ensure a college-ready culture” in the area, what does that require?

“It’s that supportive education and support of going to college. It’s not just something that happens in a school building. Schools are very good at helping prepare students academically. But there is a lot…outside of that that affects student success.”

The foundation has data programs to evaluate kindergarteners’ readiness for learning when coming into school. That data is used to help identify whether students are low in social interaction, literacy or gross motor skills. The foundation staff can then collaborate with their partners to provide targeted resources to help children grow skills they lack.

How has COVID-19 and the omicron surge affected the foundation?

“It affected us in a big way because a lot of what we did was interact with people…We have financial literacy programs for kids, talk to parents about the process, and help out kids with financial aid [and college] applications”.

The foundation got parents and kids involved online through Zoom meetings and helped to get computers to those who needed them. They went from 50% of the community having internet access to about 78% and also helped educate some parents on how to use the new technology. 

What’s an inspiring moment you recently experienced in your work at the foundation?

“We helped to put up some free little libraries in the community…Some young kids in about first or second grade who hadn’t had any books of their own got to come and pick books up.”

One little girl in particular asked if she could keep them and if they were free for her to take. She was delighted to hear the answer: “Yes.” After that, she returned every week for more books, which was inspiring.

Community News produces stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected].