Launched in September 2000, Long Beach BLAST is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving after school learning for at-risk youth. We serve low-income students in grades K-12, promoting academic success and character development through tutoring, mentoring and after school programming. Primary partners include the City of Long Beach, California State University Long Beach, Long Beach City College, Long Beach Unified School District and youth-serving organizations including the Carmelitos Housing Development, Northpointe Apartment Homes, PeaceBuilders, Boys and Girls Clubs, WRAP and YMCA. All of our partners offer safe, productive places for LBUSD students during the important hours immediately following their school day. We also work with parents, teachers, community and business leaders who share our deep commitment to effecting positive change in the development and education of our youth.
Through the California Governor's Mentoring Partnership, BLAST is a recognized Quality Assured Mentoring Program. BLAST has received numerous awards for its work including the CSULB Community Service Learning Center's award for "Outstanding Community Partner" and the County of Los Angeles Community Development Commision's "Outstanding Services Award" for serving the children and families of the Carmelitos Housing Development. In 2004, through collaborative effort with the Greater Long Beach South Bay Community Partnership, BLAST received one of only six national awards from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials for its collaborative work at Carmelitos.
In 1998-1999, Beverly O'Neil, then Mayor of Long Beach appointed Jean Egan (BLAST Founder and Board President) as chair of the Education and Youth Task Force for the city of Long Beach's Strategic Plan 2010. Through their discussions, the committee noticed several recurring solutions to address the need to improve academic competence and graduation rates: increase after school programming, increase youth mentoring and find ways to engage college students in the local community. To put these solutions into action, Jean made connections with after school program providers at UC Irvine and CSULB. Jean also became involved with research for a pre-planning grant given to the Long Beach YMCA out of which the concept for BLAST was conceived- to pair college-student mentors with youth in after school programs.
In September 2000, the Academic Mentoring Program was launched. With Jean acting as the full-time Executive Director, BLAST grew quickly during the 2000-2001 academic year. Additional staff members were hired including a Director of Programs and Evaluation and a Volunteer Coordinator. By May 2001, BLAST received funding from several large foundations and was granted its non-profit status. In 2004, BLAST opened two of its first part-time after school programs. In 2006 the organization saw major expansion with the opening of the year round, full-time BLAST After School Program at the Northpointe Apartment Homes community, the CASHEE Mentoring program and the partnership with the Los Angeles County's Probation Department's literacy tutoring program, Operation Read. In its tenth year, BLAST has served more than 6,000 youth at approximately 40 after and in-school programs in the greater Long Beach area.