Education / 2013
From Dream to Reality: IHADLA Will Help to Stop The Cycle of Poverty in Los Angeles 2050
Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by "I Have a Dream" Foundation - Los Angeles (IHADLA)
IHADLA sponsors entire grade levels of children from under-performing schools in low-income, crime-ridden areas of our city and provides them with the most long-term, comprehensive program of its kind in Los Angeles. Regardless of disability, all children are welcomed. The prime component of our program is academic achievement. For ten years, from third to twelfth grade, in both after-school and summer programs, our “Dreamers” receive math and language arts instruction that not only better prepares them for California Standardized Testing, but also assures that they have the academic foundation required to perform at an accredited four-year university. Parents/guardians are also provided with workshops on strategies that best prepare their child for academic success.
To accompany academic instruction, IHADLA provides college and career preparedness programming, including college site visits, SAT Prep workshops, and monthly lectures by professionals from a wide variety of careers. IHADLA also provides a variety of cultural enrichment opportunities which include engaging, informative field trips, arts and music courses and community service. Our objective is to expose Dreamers to enriching experiences outside of their neighborhoods that will reinforce their desire to achieve.
IHADLA is known as a “whole life” program because academic help, while crucial to success, does not guarantee the solid foundation needed to withstand negative external influences. Therefore, IHADLA partners with mental health providers to provide both group and individual counseling to any Dreamer that requires it. Dreamers also have mentors and tutors who act as positive adult role models and provide critical one-on-one time that most do not receive at home. Sex education is also an important part of our programming, as teen pregnancy remains a pervasive problem in the communities we serve. During their high school years, Dreamers participate in the “Baby, Think It Over” program, in which they are given life-like infant dolls that require round the clock attention, coupled with sex education materials provided by Planned Parenthood. As our students are with IHADLA for over ten years with the same staff, they consider IHADLA “like family”, and are open with them about the trials in their life and relationships. These factors combined have kept teen births in the program incredibly low throughout our 25 year history.
Upon high school graduation, each Dreamer receives a college scholarship to the accredited university or trade school of their choice. IHADLA represents the most comprehensive, long-term program available for low-income children in Los Angeles County.
IHADLA currently serves 297 students in four active program sites, which were chosen across Los Angeles to ensure that we are creating the most widespread impact possible. The numbers of children and adults positively affected by IHADLA is far greater than just the number of Dreamers, for our programs not only impact the students themselves, but their parents, siblings, peers and community members.
The following statistics encapsulate the need of our newest class of Dreamers at 99th Street Elementary School in Watts. The data exemplifies the types of needs of our other current program sites in Inglewood and Boyle Heights have as well:
•43% English Learner population.
•97% percent are from severely economically disadvantaged homes, including many that live in government-subsidized housing (projects). The 99th Street Elementary school in Watts is a Title 1 school.
•41% of the parents of Dreamers have not attained their GED; almost none have attended a single day of college.
•A significant portion of these students are under the jurisdiction of the dependency court system in Los Angeles, meaning they are in a foster care, a group home, or live with a non-parental guardian.
•Within the past six months, 263 violent crimes have been committed in the Watts community, an area of only two square miles. Gang activity is on high, and many of the parents in our programs are members themselves.
IHADLA is unique, not only in its comprehensive nature and duration, but also due to its contract with each school district, giving IHADLA the ability to act as a powerful liaison between school district officials and parents, teachers, and school administrators alike.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
As an organization, we have changed the lives of over 1,000 students in LA thus far by guiding them diligently through their academic careers and exposing them to enriching experiences which motivate them to attend college. Our results speak for themselves: Of our most recent class, 94% have graduated from high school, and 96% of those are in college. This more than doubles the average graduation rates that typically characterize these depressed areas. Program-wide, 97% percent of Dreamers report that IHADLA is like a “second family” to them and Ninety-eight percent of Dreamers feel that their mentor will be there for them “no matter what” and can trust them with their problems.
Additionally, in 2011, IHADLA received the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for outstanding service to the community. Only one organization nationally is honored each year. We were thereafter able to forge a partnership with the FBI, and were able to match many of our Dreamers with FBI mentors.
Each of our current classes has achievements from this year which exemplify the success of our program overall: In 2002, IHADLA adopted an entire grade level of almost 150 first grade students from Murchison Elementary School. Almost all of these students lived in the Ramona Gardens Projects in East LA, and many still do. These Dreamers are now on the eve of their high school graduation. Eighty-three percent of our graduating Dreamers from this class will be attending college, and that number will grow next year when our second year seniors graduate as well. Colleges that Dreamers will be attending include: UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, USC, UCLA, Stanford University, Ithaca University, a host of Cal States throughout California, and many, many more. Adopted back to back in 2006 and 2007, IHADLA has two grades of Dreamers in Inglewood. This year, we are proud to report that these middle-school Dreamers are performing better than their peers on the California English Language Development Test. Seventy-one percent of Dreamers were rated as “early advanced” or “advanced”, compared with only 39% of their peers. These Dreamers continue to flourish academically, with 66% improving their grade point averages this year overall. Despite turbulence within the Inglewood school district, the majority of our Dreamers have above a 3.0 GPA, and many of those below are Dreamers in our special education program. Our newest group of third grade Dreamers have not only melted our hearts, but inspired our organization as a whole. These children come from extraordinary circumstances, including domestic violence, familial gang membership, and unbelievable scenarios of poverty. Despite it all, these children are well on their way to becoming the future leaders of our society. Over the course of IHADLA’s first six months of programming, these Dreamers went from 32% only passing their quarterly assessments to 62% at advanced/proficient level.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
IHADLA has partnered with mental health service providers Amanecer and Didi Hirsch to provide psychological counseling to our young Dreamers. An astounding 97% of students in our Watts class come from economically disadvantaged homes, and 30% are in the Dependency Court System, meaning Foster Care, Group Homes, or in the care of a non-parent guardian. Dreamers are now provided with group and one-on-one therapy sessions, including artistic programs which offer Dreamers the opportunity to express themselves through different mediums. We partner with a host of organizations and companies that provide everything from physical fitness courses to organizations like The Story Project, which guides Dreamers through their own film-making project.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
The academic progress of Dreamers is measured consistently through teacher relationships, report cards, and CST scores. IHADLA staff regularly monitors homework completion and submission, and all Program Coordinators are responsible for completing Program Monthly Reports which detail events of the previous month and track the achievements and areas of needed improvement with specific students. These reports consistently monitor the effectiveness of the program.
Additionally, IHADLA undergoes external evaluations every two to three years, and tracks statistics on grades, attendance, involvement in crime and drugs, pregnancies and familial discord through individual meetings, school records, and mentor reports.
IHADLA believes in full transparency, and welcomes all queries by its supporters.
How IHADLA Measures and Defines Success:
Dreamers Achieve Academic Success 1. Dreamers are “on-track” with enough credits to graduate from high school 2. Dreamers are enrolled in appropriate courses for college entrance requirements 3. Each Dreamer’s average daily attendance rises or is at the level at which, in the combined judgment of their school and IHADLA, he/she are achieving their full potential. Dreamers will also indicate on annual survey that they feel connected to their school and intend to graduate 4. Dreamer’s GPA rises or is at the level at which, in the combined judgment of their school and IHADLA, he/she are achieving their full potential 5. Dreamers will perform better than their comparison population on reading, writing and math CST 6. Dreamers will graduate high school/receive GED at a rate greater than the LAUSD non-Dreamer population 7. Dreamers will pursue post-secondary education at a rate greater than the LAUSD non-Dreamer population
Dreamers Develop Emotional Intelligence 1. Dreamers will report increased self-confidence, perseverance, conflict resolution skills, and social competence 2. Dreamers will report that they have a caring and trusting relationship with IHADLA staff
Dreamers Develop Master Life Skills 1. Dreamers report that they are making positive life choices and are engaging in healthy risk-taking 2. Dreamers report that they have learned skills for meaningful employment 3. Mentors report on whether Dreamers have learned skills for meaningful employment or not.
Dreamers Develop College-Readiness Skills 1. Dreamers enter college at a higher rate than non-Dreamer LAUSD graduates 2. Dreamers report they are more knowledgeable about college admission requirements
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
This past year, LAUSD shortened the academic school year, laid off hundreds of qualified teachers, cut almost all after-school, art and music programs, and reduced funding dramatically. Ironically, students have then been asked to perform higher on California Standardized Tests. Our Dreamers already contend with substandard living, nutrition, and educational facilities. IHADLA aims to fill these gaps and beyond with the understanding that a better life for these children means a better life for all of us.
IHADLA specifically chooses different program sites throughout Los Angeles so that we make the most impact possible across the county. By providing the children with the greatest needs with IHADLA’s “whole-life” programming, we are dramatically increasing their opportunity to succeed. Higher graduation rates, and healthier lifestyles, mean that they are less likely to rely upon the public welfare system and also less likely to cause crime, which leads to a decreased burden on the prison system in California. High school dropouts are four times more likely to be unemployed as those who have a college degree, and are more likely to require federal assistance. They are also more likely to be delinquents, as eighty-two percent of prisoners in America are dropouts.
Most of all, by supporting IHADLA, Angelenos are making an investment in the future of our city. The future innovators of science, technology, social science, etc. are standing before us at 99th Street Elementary School in Watts. They have extraordinary potential. However, most of their parents never finished high school, and even fewer still know what it’s like to earn above the poverty line. Who, if not IHADLA, will lead these children towards towards their dreams? To turn our backs on them would be to turn our backs on our own community, and our economy, and all of our futures.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
Our ultimate dream, of course, would be for our organization’s mission to become obsolete. However, the problems that we are combating in these communities are generational, and only provide for as many students to enter the program as funding makes possible. In the year 2050, with support The “I Have a Dream” Foundation – Los Angeles could be adopting multiple classes each year at schools in need. With the appropriate funding, IHADLA could potentially serve up to thousands more children. Every group of Dreamers sponsored by IHADLA means we are changing the income and educational level of hundreds, not just our Dreamers, but their parents, family members, peers, and ultimately, their communities. We will therefore see a decrease in public aid and uncrowded prisons, as well as safer streets for us all. We will see a drop in teen birth rates and a dramatic increase in high school graduation rates.
We will also see our Dreamers become the heads of our companies, the leaders of change, and the innovators of society. We, as a foundation, are ambitious and hopeful about the future. We see the struggle and triumph of our Dreamers on an everyday basis, and know that we can make dreams possible for so many more. After 25 years of service to Los Angeles County, we have gained a reputation for taking children deemed “without hope” and turning them into college graduates.
IHADLA wants to keep fulfilling our promise to the Los Angeles by finding new ways to alleviate the ever-changing challenges facing our youth in the high-crime, violent neighborhoods we focus on. This generous grant has the potential to get us there.