Santa Monica College (SMC) has been awarded a $1.2 million grant to improve the recruitment, training, guidance and support of students who want careers in early childhood education.

The grant — $400,000 a year for three years — was awarded by Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP), an independent public benefit corporation dedicated to making preschool available to children in Los Angeles County.

The goal of the grant is to attract students into the early childhood field and keep them on track once they begin their college studies.

“This grant will allow us to eliminate barriers that usually discourage or prevent students from progressing,” said Laura Manson, chair of the SMC Education/Early Childhood Education Department. “More important, we’ll be able to clearly de- fine a pathway from high school to college graduation and remove a lot of the perceived barriers that can be the most destructive to student achievement.”

SMC, in partnership with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and California State University, Dominguez Hills, plans to create an Early Start Pathway that will raise awareness of careers in early childhood education and enable high school students to take college courses through SMC’s dual enrollment program.

The grant seeks to address several key issues that affect recruitment and professional development of the early childhood education workforce — the need for better educated professionals, attrition among students pursuing early childhood degrees and turnover of professional staff in preschools and similar organizations.

It also seeks to ease and improve the transition of students from high schools to community colleges and from community colleges to four-year institutions. Santa Monica College and other grantees are being required to collaborate with local high schools and other colleges and universities as part of their plans.

“Students confront a maze of education and licensing requirements, as well as the reality of low pay and benefits, when considering a career in early care and education,” said Gary Mangiofico, Los Angeles Universal Preschool chief executive officer. “For a profession that offers the reward of teaching and nurturing our youngest children, the path to becoming an early childhood education professional is filled with potholes and detours.”

SMC is one of six recipients of the LAUP grant awards. The others are Long Beach City College, Cal Poly Pomona, East Los Angeles College, Pierce College and Los Angeles Valley College.

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