Bits 'n' Pieces

New Innovative Education Program for Gang Youth

Long Beach City College (LBCC) and the University of Southern California (USC) Rossier School of Education’s Pullias Center for Higher Education will receive $990,000 over the next three years from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to collaborate on a new program that will promote and support higher education efforts for gang-associated youth in the greater Long Beach area for the next three years.

The new program, dubbed the LBCC Phoenix Scholars, is the only recipient across the U.S. of the competitive DOE grant, whose purpose is to help gang-involved youth to pursue higher education opportunities.

This is the first time that LBCC and USC will partner to initiate a higher education program, which will include a series of support systems within LBCC and the community that will foster successful post-gang life for youth and adults ages 16 to 24.

LBCC will work directly with Dr. Adrian Huerta of USC’s Pullias Center, who will serve as co-Principal Investigator. Huerta is a nationally-recognized expert on college access, equity and gang-associated and system-impacted youth. “Dr. Huerta is the exact scholar to conduct this study” said Dr. Adrianna Kezar, Director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education. “His experience studying youth impacted by gangs, track record with research-practitioner partnerships, and commitment to change educational systems and communities are the exact expertise to make this project successful.”

Participants will be referred to the LBCC Phoenix Scholars program by local education and nonprofit agencies.

The program will establish numerous student services and support systems for LBCC Phoenix Scholars including early college experiences, LBCC enrollment assistance, mentorships, internships, and specialized counseling and other supports specially designed to meet the needs of gang-associated youth. Other future components include the introduction of a community advisory council, assistance with university transfer and post-graduate employment.

Jewish LB Names COO

Jewish Long Beach has hired Kevin Giser as chief operating and development officer. The need for the position was identified through the integration of Jewish Long Beach with the Barbara and Ray Alpert Jewish Community Center (Alpert JCC) earlier this month.

Giser most recently served as the associate director of the Jewish Federation of the Desert, and for two years before that as the organization’s director of community impact. Giser worked with the CEO and board of directors to reimagine their strategic impact areas and development plan to adapt to COVID restrictions and update their development and grantmaking processes. Reinvigorating donor relationships by connecting the supporters to their impact both locally and in Israel.

In many ways, this is a homecoming for the Long Beach native. Giser started out as a toddler in Alpert Jewish Community Center’s (AJCC) early childhood education program. He celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at Temple Israel, is a former camp counselor at AJCC’s Camp Komaroff, and a participant at Beach Hillel.

Local Pilot Helps Young People Discover Flight

An area pilot has now given more than 100 young people a free demonstration airplane ride as part of the EAA “Young Eagles” program, which is introducing a new generation to the world of flight.

Among the more than 50,000 volunteers around the world who have donated their time and aircraft to the effort is John Mahany of Long Beach. All pilots in the Young Eagles program explain the safe operation of airplanes and principles of flight before the short trips. Participating young people become official Young Eagles with the flight. Young Eagles also have access to an online pilot training course, made possible by Sporty’s Pilot Shops, located in Batavia, Ohio.

The Young Eagles Program was unveiled by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in July 1992 and has now flown more than 2 million young people, primarily between the ages of 8 and 17. EAA is a worldwide organization with over 200,000 members who enjoy all facets of recreational flight. The Young Eagles program goal is to allow young people to experience positive activities and discover the possibilities available to them within the world of aviation. For more information, visit

Rocket Lab Closes Acquisition of SolAero

Rocket Lab USA, Inc., a global leader in launch services and space systems based in Long Beach, announced it has closed the previously-announced transaction to acquire SolAero Holdings, Inc. (SolAero), a premier supplier of space solar power products and precision aerospace structures for the global aerospace market, for $80 million in cash. Rocket Lab announced the execution of the agreement to acquire SolAero on December 13, 2021 pending certain closing conditions.

The acquisition aligns with Rocket Lab’s growth strategy of vertical integration to deliver a comprehensive space solution that spans spacecraft manufacture, satellite subsystems, flight software, ground operations and launch. As one of only two companies producing high-efficiency, space-grade solar cells in the United States, SolAero’s space solar cells are among the highest performing in the world and support civil space exploration, science, defense and intelligence and commercial markets.

In combining with Rocket Lab, SolAero will tap into the company’s resources and manufacturing capability to boost high-volume production, making high-performing space power technologies available at scale.

Schipske Slams Price,  Richardson on Deal

Gerrie Schipske, candidate for mayor and author of the “Clean Money Campaign Pledge” which asks candidates and elected officials to refuse contributions from special interests such as developers, called out Councilmembers Suzie Price and Rex Richardson for their role in approving a “sweetheart deal” that will cause an estimated loss of $264,000 in property taxes this year and approximately $7.8 million over the life of the agreement.

The deal involved the purchase of the Oceanaire luxury condominiums from Waterford Property Company. The transaction is funded through a tax-exempt bond to supposedly create middle-income housing. Once the bond was issued, the property became tax-exempt for at least 15 years and more likely 30 years or longer.

“Despite being warned by consultants hired by the city to review this deal that it carried significant ‘risks and uncertainties for the city, neither Price nor Richardson raised any questions and voted for it,” says Schipske.

Schipske points out that Price and Richardson were warned by the consultants that the city would be losing a current revenue stream and “the loss of revenue would likely effectively require some reduction in services elsewhere.”

While the city loses critical property taxes it needs to fund public safety, Waterford Property Company sold the property for a substantial profit and will receive an additional $11.5 million in fees over the lifetime of the agreement.

Employee Union Chooses Richardson for Mayor

Long Beach Vice Mayor Rex Richardson has received the endorsement of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Union, Local Lodge 1930. The union representing nearly 3,000 City of Long Beach employees believes Vice Mayor Richardson’s track record of delivering quality public services to his community proves his readiness to be the city’s next mayor.

IAM Local Lodge 1930 represents Long Beach’s frontline employees who provide our city’s vital public services that residents rely on every day.

Richardson’s priorities include addressing homelessness, protecting neighborhood health and public safety, investing in opportunities for youth, and confronting the effects of climate change.

Gilkie Receives SHARE! Recovery Award

In 1986 Constance Gilkie was just beginning a long and difficult recovery process from alcoholism and domestic abuse. Thirty-five years later, as the executive director of Transformational Living Homes, she received a Recovery Award at the 23rd Annual SHARE! Recovery Awards Dinner on Jan. 25.

The recovery awards celebrate models of successful recovery and influential figures in the recovery community. Ruth Hollman, founder and executive director of SHARE! said Gilkie was chosen because “she always goes the extra mile to give people who didn’t have a chance an opportunity to move on with their lives and become taxpayers. She gives back to the community in a big way.”

After successfully overcoming her own struggles with homelessness and addiction, Gilkie wanted to help others in similar situations – so she founded TLH in 2007. With over three decades in her personal recovery, she knew that living in substance-free shared housing with a family-like atmosphere and wraparound services would strengthen people’s ability to establish a productive life and overcome a past filled with abuse and bad choices. She often says of her work that, “I want to make things that were hard for me easier for other people.”


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