As many of you know, I work at a non-profit organization in Watts called the Institute of Service-Learning, Power & Intersectional Research (INSPIRE). INSPIRE has been operating an alternative (WASC-accredited) high school for youth between the ages of 17 and 24 who have been pushed-out of traditional schools. Our goal is to nurture young scholars who can not only intellectually engage academic research, but also produce rigorous scholarship in their own right that should be part of the discourses impacting their communities, both in policy and academia.
Just Tuesday, Mayor Garcetti held a press conference in the YO Watts Rec. Room, where we hold most our classes. Our local city Councilman Buscaino (CD15) took the press conference as an opportunity to announce that his office would be moving into the Rec. Room by the end of the year and displacing our students from a space that has been offering youth programming for the last 15 years, including our school for the last 2 years. This is not acceptable to any of us!
If Council member Buscaino takes over the YO Watts Rec. Room, he will displace 90 of our current 130 students. We cannot allow this to happen, especially as we are making such huge gains as a school community.
I need your support. I am asking for a few things.
First – if you live in the LA area, I urge you to attend our Community Forum on April 2nd at 5:30 at INSPIRE Research Academy (1501 East 103rd Street, Los Angeles, 90002). See the attachment below for more info. We need to pack the meeting with people and make some noise! If you can bring youth, please bring them as they are central to this entire battle for space.
Second – Be willing to sign a petition or write a letter in support of our school. I have attached a draft of our current statement about the issue, which we hope you can endorse. Please let us know if we can put you as an individual or your organization as an endorser of our efforts. We are in a bit of a crunch because the announcement literally happened couple of 2 days ago, which leaves us little time to plan. If you would like more information, please send me an email and/or come to the forum and also email us so we may send you the 3-page narrative of the background.
Third – Spread this message far and wide! Share the flier, our story, my contact info, our website or Facebook, twitter/instagram @inspirewatts to organizations, educators, activists, community member and well-wishers.
If you have any advice, political connections, or other comments for us please, please connect us. We are novices at at organizing and could benefit from help.
For some of you in the LA area, I would like to include your phone number our network list. If you don’t wish to have your phone number in our list, or if you don’t wish to be contacted again for this please just let me know.
Link to a news clip featuring our school
Thank you for reading this very long email.
Alejandro Covarrubias, PhD
Institute of Service-Learning, Power & Intersectional Research (INSPIRE)
1513 East 103rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90002
DON’T DISPLACE US FROM OUR SPACE!
The Institute of Service-Learning, Power, and Intersectional Research (INSPIRE) partners with the Los Angeles Youth Opportunity Movement in Watts (YO Watts) and John Muir Charter School to offer an alternative continuation school for “at risk” students between the ages of 17 and 24. Fully accredited by WASC, INSPIRE Research Academy offers local youth the opportunity to earn a high school diploma. Beyond academic programming, INSPIRE offers all students a host of comprehensive support services at no cost: social workers, psychologists, college counselors, university trips, college enrollment support, job opportunities, transportation services, computer labs, CAHSEE test preparation, and is able to provide access to additional services, such as housing, food, internships, and daycare through its partner organization, YO Watts.
On its first day in October, 2012, INSPIRE had a total of nine students. Today, under 18 months later, over 150 students are actively enrolled, and another 160 are on a wait list. According to a 2013 study, the people of Watts—whose average age is young, at only 24 years—believe their community lacks youth programs. The study, spearheaded by District 15 Honorable Councilman Joe Buscaino, and implemented through the Watts Community Studio, surveyed local Watts residents and businesses about what they saw as the greatest assets and challenges in their community. According to them, the fifth greatest challenge in their community was “No youth programs.” The first and second challenges on the list were “Violence/Danger” and “Gangs/Drugs,” respectively. Those surveyed said, “programs for youth would also work to keep them off the streets and away from violent activities.”
On January 10, 2014, Honorable Councilmember Buscaino’s representative said INSPIRE would be given the opportunity to enter a 1-year lease on Firehouse 65 (adjacent to YO! Watts) with the support of the Councilman on options for getting the building ready for our students. A couple weeks later (January 24th), however, their office notified the school that not only was the firehouse off the table, but the Councilman’s office would also be moving into the old library that INSPIRE currently uses as classrooms by the end of the calendar year, reducing our space by more than half, displacing 90 students and several staff, in order to save the Councilmember’s office rent money on a private property. The money he will save by moving has yet to be promised for anything in particular.
Displacing INSPIRE, or any other youth program, would be a step in the wrong direction. INSPIRE is prepared to entertain creative solutions, including obtaining the support of non-profit organizations and private contractors to rehabilitate Firehouse 65, and is especially eager to create a formal partnership with the Councilman’s office in its pursuit of these resources.
In a time of great economic and social strain—a time when fewer than half (47%) of all eligible Watts students graduate from high school (Watts Community Studio Report, 2013)—INSPIRE serves as a beacon of hope for the youth, families, and future of Watts. After only its first year, INSPIRE has graduated over 30 students, with most enrolling in community college or job training programs as an extension of their high school diploma. We look forward to working with Councilman Buscaino to ensure these numbers continue to climb.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to endorse our efforts and appeal to Councilman Buscaino to:
SAVE OUR SCHOOL, INSPIRE OUR YOUTH!
INSPIRE Research Academy