Above, Mayor Eric Garcetti is joined by, from left, School Board President Steve Zimmer, YPI President Dixon Slingerland and School Board Member Mónica García as he announces a $30 million federal grant to benefit eight schools in L.A. Unified.
Eight schools in L.A. Unified will benefit from a five-year, $30 million grant that will fund academic supports and community-based services, plus free community college and a generous college-savings account for students living in some of the District’s most impoverished neighborhoods, officials announced Wednesday.
Seven schools in Pico-Union and an early education center in Hollywood will share the Promise Neighborhood Grant, which was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to the nonprofit Youth Policy Institute (YPI). With more than five dozen educational and community partners, YPI will work to break the cycle of poverty by creating a network of wrap-around services to support student success.
“This means the students, the families and the educators who are part of this tapestry here today, and the good work of our partners at the Youth Policy Institute, will bring comprehensive education, health, safety, family support services,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said during a news conference at Berendo Middle School.
Berendo and the co-located Monseñor Ocaro Romero Charter will benefit from the grant, along with Hollywood Primary Center, Politi Elementary School and the four academies that make up the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex. Of the estimated 3,900 students attending those schools, 10 percent are unaccompanied minors and 71 percent come from families living below the poverty line.
YPI will deliver 52 separate services, including academic tutoring, college and career coaching, peer mediation and restorative justice programs, professional development for teachers and administrators, and parent education and literacy classes.
“There is no silver bullet to fighting poverty,” said Dixon Slingerland, YPI’s president and chief executive officer. “This is a comprehensive cradle to college and career approach.”
The initiative also carries a strong focus on supporting students in pursuing a post-secondary education.
Slingerland announced that YPI will fund a second year of free community college for graduates of the high schools in the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex – an extension of the one-year L.A.’s College Promise program that Garcetti launched last year. Families can also register for a special savings account, in which YPI will deposit $8 for every dollar banked toward a college education.
“This is a model, but there are millions impacted by this work, millions who will look at the success of this neighborhood,” said School Board Member Mónica García, who represents the area.
Dr. Frances Gipson, L.A. Unified’s chief academic officer, said that strategy allows the District to envision even higher goals than having every student earn a high school diploma.
“I’m going to dare us – it’s not just about 100 percent graduation, but 100 percent graduations, plural,” she said.
YPI is also the lead agency for a Promise Neighborhood Grant awarded in 2012, which has been used to provide academic support and community services to schools in Hollywood and Pacoima. English and math proficiency rates have improved across the board at those campuses, and officials hope for similar results with the new initiative.
“You are important and your dreams are important,” School Board President Steve Zimmer told students from Promise Neighborhood schools who attended the announcement. “This great grant, all of these people are gathered … because your dreams are our dreams, your hopes are our hopes, and because you are so important.
“So when it gets hard – and, don’t misunderstand, it’s going to get hard – it’s because our expectations of you match your dreams and your parents’ dreams,” he said. “We believe in you, that you can do it. You have to do it.”