News


New college-prep head aims to fight inequity

Jocelyn Lee takes helm of Foundation for a College Education in East Palo Alto

As an African-American child adopted by a white family in Colorado, Jocelyn Lee believes she was more sheltered from the inequities of education that affect others. She recalled recently that a counselor failed to recommend her for Advanced Placement classes despite her high GPA in school, but at the time Lee did not connect that lapse to bias.

"I was not aware about issues of inequity," Lee said, "until I experienced racism for the first time."

That occurred one summer during college while working in the Hamptons in New York as a babysitter. When shopping at Walmart for groceries once, she had people approach her assuming she was an employee. Lee asked her African-American boss why people made this assumption, and the woman pointed out that while the customers were white, the employees were all people of color.

"I was outraged," Lee said.

That experience triggered a deep interest in education and its ability to bridge inequities. It also focused her ensuring career in education, which led this summer to her being hired as the new executive director of the East Palo Alto nonprofit Foundation for a College Education.

Lee comes to the nonprofit with more than 20 years of experience in primary and secondary education. In that time, she has dealt with and attempted to dismantle systemic inequities and says she it's been her long-term commitment to help students become the first in their families to attend college.

Lee is tasked with furthering the organization in a number of areas, including advancing the mission of providing quality college-prep services to local students, raising community visibility and securing the nonprofit's financial well-being. Foundation for a College Education served 200 students and families last year through after-school and weekend programs encompassing tutoring, help with college applications and parent advocacy.

Lee spent July shadowing departing executive director Anna Waring, who led the organization for 11 years. Under Waring, the nonprofit was recognized as a model college-access organization in 2007 and 2012 by the Lumina Foundation and the Educational Policy Institute.

Lee first witnessed educational inequity when volunteering at Menlo-Atherton High School through the Stanford University student-teacher program. She recalled a troubling aspect of the socioeconomically diverse student body, which included students from both the wealthier Atherton and less affluent East Palo Alto. Students would interact in the hallways and during passing periods, but they were effectively "segregated," she said, by classrooms.

"This phenomenon piqued my interest," said Lee, who later became a U.S. History teacher at Menlo-Atherton. "As a teacher, I got involved with a schoolwide committee and had this urgency to address inequities."

In order to make a greater impact on educational outcomes, Lee transitioned from teaching to administration, hoping to help students become college-ready. However, she then noticed that college readiness had to start earlier than high school. Students, in particular English language learners, were not prepared.

To influence student outcomes by reaching kids earlier, she went on to work as principal at Bullis Charter School, a middle school in Los Altos, and as director at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center Leslie Family Preschool in Palo Alto.

Lee said her interest in Foundation for a College Education was driven by a sense of alienation from her original aspirations -- to get low-income and first-generation students college-ready.

"I started to feel like I wasn't being true to the whole reason I wanted to be an educator," Lee said, "which was to make a difference for students of color and make sure they have the same access as their white and Asian counterparts."

Lee applied for the position of program director at the nonprofit but was asked if she would be interested instead in applying to be executive director. Lee did. The foundation announced her hiring in late June.

Although the new position is a departure from her prior ones, Lee hopes to use her expertise in three ways: providing support to families, managing support staff to create systems that can maximize the organization's work and focusing on equal opportunity for all student-members.

She also brings with her an educational philosophy that emphasizes the needs and interests of the child as a whole.

"If a child's basic needs are not met, it is very difficult for them to be successful in school," Lee said. "It is so important to focus on the whole family and have a parent-education component."

Another strong belief Lee holds is that students need exposure to different topics and experiences so they can decide what they are passionate about, an approach she said she will reinforce through the foundation's STEAM middle school program, which provides academic enrichment sessions to help middle school students become college ready.

Lee is still planning specific goals and objectives for the year ahead. She said she'll start by building relationships with staff, board members, parents, students and donors.

While continuing to build on the work Waring did, Lee hopes to pioneer her own leadership style.

"I'm thrilled to be here," Lee said. "I feel very passionate about the mission and feel honored to follow Anna."

Comments

5 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 3, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

I am sure Ms. Lee is a fine, well meaning person. However, the point needs to be made that the resources used to hire her could be better used towards increasing teaching staff, improving facilities or providing after school tutoring.

Which alternative better addresses inequity?


37 people like this
Posted by MD@Sequoia
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 3, 2018 at 1:37 pm

[Portion removed.]

Educating the masses against pre-conceived stereotypes. As a physician of African-American descent, I have often been mistaken for an orderly since nearly everyone in hopital environments wears scrubs these days.

Ignorance and certain biases continue to keep this country behind the eight-ball.




18 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 3, 2018 at 2:03 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

In my lifetime, I have been mistaken several times for the workers at a hardware supply store, a greeter at a restaurant and a valet at a high end hotel. What does that prove?

In most of those cases, I believe the cause was merely over-anxious people reaching out for assistance and just going down the line asking anyone for help. An assumption of ignorance or ill-will is a downward spiral. If you always seek out the bad in people you will most surely find it.

The best way to break stereotypes is by setting a good example through unwavering personal leadership. People will see you as you see yourself.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once put it, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2018 at 2:12 pm

[Portion removed.]

>> I am sure Ms. Lee is a fine, well meaning person. However, the point needs to be made that the resources used to hire her could be better used towards increasing teaching staff, improving facilities or providing after school tutoring.

It could also be that the Foundation is filling in gaps for students who come from backgrounds where it isn't obvious how to go college.

>> Which alternative better addresses inequity?

I don't know because I'm not familiar with the Foundation programs. Are you?

Web Link


26 people like this
Posted by Meghan
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2018 at 5:58 pm

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by but wait!
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 3, 2018 at 8:22 pm

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Hmm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2018 at 10:33 pm

[Post removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by College Is Not for Everyone
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2018 at 9:15 am

While an opportunity to attend should remain an available option, college is not for everyone from the standpoint of one's vocational aspirations, interests and scholastic aptitude.

The foundation might also consider encouraging careers in various trades as well as there are blue-collar jobs that pay even more than some requiring a college education (e.g. an electrician or plumber vs a teacher).

All viable jobs should be considered/encouraged with constructive guidance provided towards fulfilling individual aspirations.





4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2018 at 9:49 am

Posted by College Is Not for Everyone, a resident of East Palo Alto

>> While an opportunity to attend should remain an available option, college is not for everyone from the standpoint of one's vocational aspirations, interests and scholastic aptitude.

Agreed. About 37 percent of young people today end up with (at least) a four-year degree. Many of the 63 percent who don't would benefit from vocational programs.

>> The foundation might also consider encouraging careers in various trades as well as there are blue-collar jobs that pay even more than some requiring a college education (e.g. an electrician or plumber vs a teacher).

Absolutely.

>> All viable jobs should be considered/encouraged with constructive guidance provided towards fulfilling individual aspirations.

No question. It is just that studying for college, applying to college, actually getting through college, can be huge challenges for people whose family backgrounds don't include that knowledge that provides the "push". The resulting difference can be stark: 16% college graduation rate without that push, 56% with that push. But, even at 56%, the other 44% need careers, too. I agree completely with that.


4 people like this
Posted by Tim
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 4, 2018 at 5:14 pm

Someone politely asked me at Costco the other day if I was an employee. Little did I know the deep-rooted racism, subconscious bias, and xenophobia hiding in that stranger’s heart. It’s a scary world. I’m glad his lady is doing her part to straighten things out.


10 people like this
Posted by Don't Take It Personally
a resident of Los Altos
on Sep 4, 2018 at 5:34 pm

A couple of years ago, I was walking along El Monte in Los Altos when a woman slowed down & rolled down her passenger side window.

The first thing she asked was, "Hey. Do You speak English?" After I replied that I did, she asked for directions to 280 & I told her to continue on towards Foothill College where she would eventually reach the access.

It was no big deal & in retrospect kind of funny. I am 3rd generation Japanese-American and she probably mistook me for another one of the newcomers from China who are relocating to the area.

Afterall, to some we all look the same. *LOL*






Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 5, 2018 at 8:00 pm

I think it’s interesting that this article failed to mention that Lee was the principal of McNair for years. Seems like a point they would want to make unless they’re purposely omitting it. Perhaps they don’t want to remind the community that this is the same principal they drove out 7 years ago.


Like this comment
Posted by Prava
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 6, 2018 at 3:05 pm

Why the primary focus on the inequities towards African-Americans?

Inequity is experienced by people of all nationalities and ethnicities.

Dark-skinned East Indians are often mistaken for being African-Americans & Sikh males are sometimes mistaken for another religious group because of their turbans and beards.

Ignorance and stupidity is rampant in America. We must enlighten.


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