Aerospace giant Boeing has donated $10.6 million to 20 nonprofits to address racial equity and social justice across the country, including $500,000 to the Long Beach College Promise, the company announced Friday.


The announcement comes on the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the historic “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.


“At Boeing, we acknowledge the toll that systemic racism and social injustice have had on people of color, particularly Black communities here in the United States,” said David Calhoun, Boeing president and CEO.


The funding package is part of Boeing’s previously announced commitment to fund local and national programs and organizations to increase the number of “minority and underserved” students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.


“For more than a decade, we have celebrated some amazing accomplishments through the Long Beach College Promise,” said Lou Anne Bynum, Long Beach City College interim superintendent-president. “This generous gift from Boeing will not only help students of color bridge equity gaps as we go forward, but will specifically give LBCC students opportunities to work  with elementary school students in STEM programs.”


Adopted in 2008, the college promise guarantees access to higher education by offering qualifying Long Beach Unified School District graduating seniors two free semesters at Long Beach City College. Over the course of the program’s first decade, enrollment from LBUSD to CSULB increased 71%, while enrollment from LBCC to the university increased 55%.


In fall 2017, 417 first-generation college students enrolled at CSULB after graduating from LBUSD, up 151% from fall 2008. First-generation college students transferring from LBCC to Cal State increased 100% over the same period, from 98 to 196 students.


“The Long Beach College Promise attracts this kind of exemplary support because it has a nationally recognized track record of improving access to college and rewarding careers,” LBUSD Superintendent Jill Baker said in an email. “Thank you, Boeing, for recognizing the value of the Promise and for helping us to commit with renewed urgency to advancing racial equity.”


The majority of students enrolled in Long Beach Unified, 57.5%, are Hispanic or Latino, according to the Education Data Partnership. Black and White student populations each account for 12.6% of the school system’s enrollment. Native American, Asian, Filipino and Pacific Islander enrollment combined is 11.8%.


“Our future workforce should reflect the diversity and talents of Long Beach,” Philip June, director of engineering and Long Beach site executive for Boeing, said in an email. “We look forward to a long partnership with Long Beach College Promise to advance racial equality and opportunities at all levels.”


Other donations by Boeing include $2.5 million to the Seattle Children’s Hospital for the expansion of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic; $1.5 million to Chicago Public Schools to expand technology access for about 4,500 students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; $1 million to the Equal Justice Initiative for public education and policy research to address criminal justice reform; and The Mission Continues for Operation Nourish, a program that combats food insecurity by enlisting veterans to grow, collect and distribute food in underserved communities and communities of color.


“As we work internally to confront these issues, we also remain focused on addressing the causes and impacts of racism and social inequality in the communities where our employees live and work,” Calhoun said.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.