Nonprofit's RoleThere are 640,000 students currently registered in the Los Angeles Unified School District and 480,000 (75%) of them are Latinos. The LA. School Report reminds us that this past March 1st was the 50th anniversary of the big “blowout” when “thousands of young Latinos marched out of their East Los Angeles classrooms…for their right to be educated.”
ThenWriting for the LA. School Report, Esmeralda Romero notes, “Latino students in 1968 had no textbooks reflecting their history or their culture. They had to refrain from speaking Spanish at school. Teachers and school leaders didn’t look like them. Classrooms were overcrowded.”
NowFifty years later, thanks to the bravery of those students, things are better. Today in LA Unified, 37% of teachers are Latino, as well as 43% of school administrators and 38% of district officials. Now, 480,000 Latino students have access to all classes required for entrance into the state’s public universities. They study in bilingual programs and take ethnic studies courses. Many more are graduating and attending college.
More Progress NeededBut despite all these hard-won advances, Latino academic achievement and college graduation rates still lag far behind their peers. Only 24% rated “proficient” in math and 34% in English. Only 39% of the district’s Latino graduating high school seniors were deemed college or career ready. “We’re not there yet,” said Mónica García, President of LA Unified’s school board. “There are gaps in opportunity. There are gaps in achievement, in performance, and those gaps have roots in the institutional racism and classism that our young people fought against back then.”
The Community Steps UpThe limits imposed by systemic social attitudes and a ubiquitous shortfall in financial assets could only be addressed by the community at large. In the LA Unified School District, the community has responded.
Sunset Bronson Studios – This privately held company became among the first to partner with L.A. Unified by “adopting” Le Conte Middle School. It has donated and installed lighting and curtains for the school's theater and is planning a mentoring program to introduce students to its engineers and other employees who support the creative industry.
“I think it’s good for kids to learn that there are good, solid jobs in the creative side and the support side, which is really core to L.A.," Bill Humphrey, the General Manager of Sunset, said. "And if we can get that across to kids and get them the exposure to say, 'Hey, wow that's in our community, I think I should learn that trade,' that in itself will be a great accomplishment."
The Nonprofit CommunitySunset Bronson Studios may be among the first in the community to offer creative support to Latino students struggling to enter the main stream of American life, but Sunset Bronson is not alone. The following list of nonprofits, large and small, who are taking an active part in supporting the education of LA Unified’s 640,000 students heartens and inspires anyone who takes the time to take a look.
- 826LA - dedicated to supporting student writing.
- DIYgirls - Encourages young women to explore technology and engineering through innovative educational experiences.
- GameDes - Promotes learning through computer games.
- GLADEO - helps young people find and pursue their dream careers.
- HOLA - Heart of Los Angeles gives some of the city’s most vulnerable youth a chance to succeed in life.
- Gumball Foundation - is creating the next generation of inner-city social entrepreneurs by providing access to higher education.
- I.am.angel foundation seeks to TRANS4M lives through education, inspiration & opportunity.
- Imagination Foundation - finds, fosters and funds creativity and entrepreneurship in kids across LA and around the world.
- IOW (INSIDE OUT WRITERS) reduces juvenile recidivism through writing. Paper. Pen. Persistence.
- INNER-CITY ARTS - provides arts education to those children most in need.
- LIBROS SCHMIBROS - champions the pleasures of literature and its power to change lives.
- SCHOOL ON WHEELS - Provides tutoring to homeless children in LA
- TWENTY MILLION MINDS - reduces college costs by democratizing educational content.
- WRITE GIRL - Within a community of women writers, Write Girl promotes creativity and self-expression to empower girls.