Not many know the story of how Partnership Scholars Program spread from Lennox, California to the community of El Monte in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles. But Arlene LeGaspe knows it well. A native to El Monte, Ms. LeGaspe helped lead the way in expanding the burgeoning college-access program, thanks to the advocacy of former Charles T. Kranz Intermediate School principal, Sal Gumina. Mr. Gumina was inspired to replicate the program after meeting PSP founder Glenn Langer at Lennox Middle School. He saw PSP’s growing success in a community he equated with El Monte and wanted to take the show on the road. In 1999, with the support of new funding, Partnership Scholars was launched at Kranz Intermediate with Arlene LeGaspe at the helm.
When approached with the prospect of a new mentorship program to support students in their pursuit of higher education, LeGaspe got right on board. “The principal [Les Mason] asked if I could do it,” says LeGaspe. “Anything I could do for the kids was fine by me.” She had been a teacher at Kranz since 1992 and saw a critical need for a college-access support for students at her school. She and five other mentors took on ten scholars and the program took off from there. Her initial involvement centered around bringing mentors on board and finding qualified students to receive scholarships. The program continued to grow under the leadership of the next principal and current Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services, Ray Andry, and today enjoys great support under the current principal, Sean Grycel. With the program’s expansion, LeGaspe has been instrumental in forging relationships with the El Monte high schools, coordinating between administration, mentors, students and the community.