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More than an innovative partnership between UCLA and LAUSD, the GSE&IS Community School is a catalyst for change.
Before Eric Alejo enrolled as an eighth-grader at the UCLA Community School in Los Angeles, he figured he never would go to college. But once at the UCLA Community School, he was inspired when his teachers didn’t ask if he would continue his education — they asked where. “I’m the first one in my family to go to college. I’m also the first to graduate high school,” says the high school senior.
An innovative pilot project launched in partnership with Los Angeles Unified School District, the UCLA Community School opened in Alejo’s Koreatown neighborhood in 2009. Students in the area were mainly from Hispanic and Asian immigrant families, zoned to the school the same way students are zoned to any other LAUSD school. Before the school opened, only one-third of the high school graduates in the area went on to attend college. With the help of the pilot school, the first graduating senior class saw 95 percent of students planning to attend college, with more than half admitted to four-year schools.
The key to the school’s success, explains math teacher Maria Nakis, is its personalized approach. “I’ve developed much closer relationships with these students than at any other school where I’ve worked, because even if they’re not in my class, I’ve seen them all every day for four years.”
Working with volunteers from UCLA, teachers at the UCLA Community School focus on ensuring students are qualified to apply to the University of California — steering them to the college prep classes they need and making certain they know the deadlines for registering for PSATs and SATs. The curriculum uses innovations and insights from UCLA’s experimental Lab School – for instance, project-based learning and multi-age grouping. UCLA Community School students are making strides in mathematical problem-solving, analytical writing, creative expression and learning beyond the classroom. Working with dedicated teachers, families, volunteers and research-based tools, techniques and programs can break the cycle of poverty by equipping children with a first-class education.
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