Management Students Partner with South LA Nonprofit

Students from Professor Cathleen McGrath’s “Managing People and Organizations” summer session partnered with the Al Wooten Jr. Youth Center for an online community-based learning project. Over the course of six weeks, students worked with Wooten Executive Director Naomi McSwain and Associate Director Christelle Telesford to create videos to be used as part of the onboarding process for new volunteers.

The Al Wooten Jr. Youth Center is a nonprofit agency providing free afterschool and low-cost summer programs for students in grades 3-12 in the South LA area.

McGrath, who has been working with community partners for the past 20 years at LMU, partnered with Lezlee Matthews, director of community-based learning for the LMU Center for Service and Action, to increase place-based engagement with a focus on South Los Angeles.

“The Wooten Center was in the process of moving all their programming online in response to COVID-19,” said McGrath. “My class had the opportunity to help create videos to be used for online onboarding and socialization of new volunteers.”

The class used a multi-stage approach in working with the Wooten Center:

  1. Initial meeting to determine the scope of work and expectations of the client, the Wooten Center.
  2. Research and exploration of best practices in onboarding and newcomer socialization, including reading research articles and meeting with Dr. Linda Simon, a senior level HR executive.
  3. Learning about the South Los Angeles location and the community served by the Wooten Center.
  4. Engaging in deep discussions with Naomi McSwain on how volunteers can enter into work with the Wooten Center in a context of mutual respect and appreciation.
  5. Discussions around issues of racial justice and educational equity.
  6. Conducting interviews for the onboarding videos with:
    • Current volunteer Giuseppe Benedetti, an LMU alum
    • Executive Director Naomi McSwain
    • Professor Ani Shabazian, Director of the LMU Children’s Center and an expert in child development
  7. Creating the videos
  8. Presenting videos to Naomi McSwain for her evaluation and use.

“This working relationship allowed us to learn more about the lived experience of the children and families who participate in Wooten Center programs,” said McGrath. “The students learned about onboarding and socialization and witnessed how these strategies are implemented in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations.”

Added Matthews, “These experiences illustrate compatibility between LMU’s mission to educate the whole person and develop deeper understanding among students about how to achieve significant local and global impact.”

Click here to watch one of the final onboarding videos.