ECHS Students Explore Gentrification, Transformation & A Thriving Los Angeles

On Thursday, February 2, the students of Environmental Charter High School presented the Annual Community Forum, during which students led discussions related to month long research projects that revolved around issues impacting their communities in South Los Angeles. The forum provided impassioned student perspectives on four major policy issues where students present, advocate, debate and share their research on pressing matters, including: Gentrification, Transforming Community Spaces, Future of Charter Schools and What LA Needs to Thrive.

As part of the month-long, school wide Intersession experience, students take a departure from subject-area class schedules to to conduct field research and interview members of the community on using interdisciplinary theory (from Science to English) to present their findings and recommendations.

Transforming Community Spaces
Neighborhoods throughout South Los Angeles are riddled with vacant lots (abandoned gas stations, empty parking lots). Through the lenses of resistance education, design theory, institutional investing, statistical analysis, green design and horticulture, the ninth graders employed tactics to persuade respective cities to implement student-created solutions for specified vacant lots. Analyzing data of businesses and institutions in their communities, students identified gaps – i.e., organic grocery stores – and selected abandoned lots where one could be constructed.

Gentrification: What Role Do Demographics Play in the Process
The 11th grade presentations revolved around students’ research on the changes in demographics and properties of a local cities including businesses, housing and public space. Students explored the communities of Inglewood, South LA, South Gate, Little Tokyo and Long Beach. Using their findings as context, students conducted workshops to assist community members in better understanding their rights. Community members who attended the student-led events left with a better understanding of their rights as renters in Los Angeles.

The Future of Charter Schools
After research of the Public Education Restoration Act to repeal The California Charter Schools Act of 1992, seniors presented their data driven research and participation in a variety of civic actions to inform the community of claims made in regards to charter schools. They addressed and explored the question, "How Can We Provide Quality Education to our Community?"

Sophomore Kianna Kinsey indicated that the intersession project opened her eyes. After examining “What Does LA Need to Thrive?”, which exposed her to everything from immigration history to species endemic to LA, she noted “I have lived here all my life and had no idea that LA is based on immigrants from all over the world.” Being biracial, Kianna sees her own heritage in the history of Los Angeles. She enjoyed the interdisciplinary aspect of Intersession, as well as the unexpected learnings that came from working with the same group over a month-long period.

ECHS is proud to be the only school of its kind in Los Angeles County engaging underserved communities with its innovative interdisciplinary and environmentally focused curriculum.

"Every year I am inspired by the students' dedication to Community Forum, but this year in particular, the research was even more relevant to Los Angeles and directly impacts the lives of our students,” said KC Villoria, principal, ECHS. “Picking salient issues that are relevant in the here and now is at the core of what makes our school unique and allows our students to become advocates and ‘solutionaries’ for their communities."

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ECHS thanks our community and school partners for their constant support of our students and participation in annual projects like these. In particular, we would like to thank:

Animo Inglewood Charter High School
Los Angeles Leadership Academy
City on a Hill Public Charter Schools
Loyola Village Elementary
El Segundo High School
Morningside High School
Equitas Academy Charter School
New City Public Schools
e3 Civic High School
North High School
Factory Farming Awareness Coalition
Odyssey Charter School
Heal the Bay
Saint Joseph High School
Lawndale Elementary School District
University of Southern California
Lawndale High School
Urban Discovery Academy
Loyola Village Elementary
Los Angeles Conservancy