Montebello CA CBT student group with Co-Founders Dan Clement (L) and Todd Clark (R) and Counselor Andy Castillo at the top. 
Photo authorized for use by Dan Clement, co-founder of College Bound Today

An age-old nursery rhyme asks, “When you grow up do you want to be a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker.” Today, as the 2020 school year literally zooms by, Los Osos Middle School (LOMS) will encourage students to consider a future beyond what they were familiar with living in San Luis Obispo County. They will explore dream career options while preparing for sought-after higher education at Harvard, Purdue, UCLA, Georgetown or any college that they might want to attend but never thought they would have the chance to. 

On September 19, Principal Karl Klum (LOMS) and the co-founder of College Bound Today (CBT), Dan Clement, assembled their team of San Luis Coastal Unified School District (SLCUSD) staff to Zoom-meet members of the new community-based advisory board and mentors. Participants included representatives from Montabello Unified School District, where the program began eleven years ago.

Prinicpal Klum noted, “Los Osos Middle School intends to be the first-ever pilot college program that will include parents and students starting in 7th grade and following through high school’s freshman year.” 

Klum credits Clement as the “bulldog” who has recruited fifteen diverse volunteer mentors and numerous local educators and community leaders to collaborate with the SLCUSD staff to create the college-mentoring program intended to be fully operational by mid-November. 

“I’m very pleased to have accomplished those goals on schedule,” said Clement.  

The purpose of CBT’s program is to introduce and mentor students to consider career options, develop their study habits to successfully complete high school and reach beyond for a career by selecting and attending the college or university that will provide the education and training they will need.

Introducing CBT at LOMS has been on the fast track ever since Clement and his wife, Jude, recently relocated to the Central Coast. Principal Klum was impressed with CBT’s proven track record of success at the Montebello, CA schools. 

According to CBT’s website (www.collegeboundtoday.net), “…out of 1,300+ students who completed CBT’s program, more than 99% went on to attend college, with 85% attending 4-year colleges and universities, 91% were Latino students, 85% of them qualified for free or reduced lunch and 70% were in the first generation of their families to attend college.”

Early on Clement discovered strong parent involvement was critical for the success of the program. The CBT model at LOMS will soon invite 7th grade students to commit. They will be teamed in groups of 8-to-10 students with at least two mentors meeting monthly through their freshman year at Morro Bay High School. Students are recommended by staff, and parents are informed as to why they were selected. Students MUST commit to 7-out-of-7 Saturday meetings, and their parents must agree to get them there. The goal is to build family relationships that will foster continued encouragement especially once away from home.

Before CBT Clement spent 31 years as a trial lawyer in Los Angeles “living the fast lane,” he said. To slow down he served as in-house lawyer for Southern California Gas for several years, but began to dream and explore another career. “I spent enough time ripping people to shreds,” he added. 

In 2007 he discovered his friend and co-founder of CBT, Todd Clark was ready to retire after founding and operating  Constitution Right Foundation (CRF), which created the Mock Trial programs. He introduced Clement to the CBT concept and offered to help him build it. Clark also had the connection to the 30,000-strong Montebello School Unified District where Clement convinced the district to pilot the program. The first year showed strong promise at Schurr High School so CBT was expanded to the 3,000 non-English speaking students at Bell Gardens the following year.


Students enjoy Chinatown meal together after attending concert at Los Angeles Music Center.
Photo authorized for use by Dan Clement, co-founder of College Bound Today

Today Clement is proud of CBT’s statistical success, but animates when telling the stories of students the group has mentored. For example, Zayla Zazueta graduated from Mount St. Mary’s in three years and received a USC Masters in social work the next year, then mentored at Schurr High for four years.

From an immigrant family himself, Josue Gutierrez Balderas studied immigration law at Georgetown University. He impressed U.S. District Court Judge Jesus G. Bernal so much, the judge invited him to intern.

Forrest Lin planned to attend Yale. Clement was awestruck the student had research every detail including where he’d eat pizza in between studies. A good student at Schurr High, he was offered full-ride scholarships at Harvard, Stanford and Yale. Clement taught him to be his own advocate and negotiate visitations for his parents and a better financial package. After graduation from Yale, he worked on Wall Street in investment banking.

Clement noted a benefit of mentoring has been the career-long relationships built with the students as they excel into their life’s work. Persistence is required to harness a dream, but when sought after within a team working together on the goal, time is scheduled for fun, including field trips, college visits and, of course, celebrations.