October 2013 Equity Work that Matters Spotlight!

InnerCity Struggle, East LA

InnerCity Struggle (ICS) has worked with youth and community residents since 1994 to promote safe, healthy and non-violent communities in the Eastside. They organize youth and families in Boyle Heights, unincorporated East Los Angeles, El Sereno and Lincoln Heights to work together for social and educational justice. ICS provides positive after-school programs for students to become involved in supporting our schools to succeed. They have empowered students to reach their family's dream of college. The work of ICS demonstrates that youth and parents working together are a powerful force for improving their communities and making real change.

ICS works with high school students through United Students campus clubs at Roosevelt, Garfield, Wilson and Lincoln high schools. These clubs demand equitable opportunities and educational justice to ensure that all students graduate and attend college. In addition, ICS has a parent component called Familias Unidas that builds the power of parents and families to fight for equitable opportunities and quality education for both children and youth. ICS’s work is grounded in a theory of change that views real and lasting change occurring as a result of mass numbers of youth and families organizing at a grassroots level.

ICS also engages thousands of Eastside voters on an on-going basis to ensure they have all the information to make educated decisions at the ballot box. They have also registered thousands of new voters and trained community residents to engage in Get-Out-The-Vote efforts.

ICS’s impact on educational inequities is evident in the following four domains:

Restorative Justice This past spring, ICS and their partners in the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition won passage of the School Climate Bill of Rights, a pioneering school Board resolution that enacts common sense approaches to school discipline. Through adoption of the resolution, LAUSD committed to stop suspending students for minor offenses such as “willful defiance,” a punitive policy used disproportionately to drive boys of color from our classrooms.

Health and Wellness In 2010, ICS launched a campaign to secure a comprehensive wellness center at the East Los Angeles Esteban E. Torres High School. The campaign included mass education to thousands of students and hundreds of parents about the importance of Health and Wellness, collecting hundreds of student petitions and mobilizing students, parents, and allies to delegations with District leaders to demand the creation of a Wellness Center. The Esteban E. Torres HS Wellness Center was inaugurated in April of 2012. The center is comprised of eight health practitioners from three area based non-profit service organizations that provide primary healthcare, mental health and reproductive health services at no cost and regardless of citizenship status to the 2,305 student campus. This Spring, ICS released a policy report, titled, Health Justice for Eastside Students: Strengthening Access to Health and Wellness for Academic Successthat highlights successes and areas to strengthen for the Esteban E. Torres High School Wellness Center.

Food Justice: ICS believes that access to quality food is critical to a student’s academic success. The youth and parents of ICS have been advocates for developing a more nutritious lunch menu in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In addition to demanding a more quality and healthier food menu, InnerCity Struggle has demanded that the District increase student’s access to food. ICS was part of the “Breakfast in the Classroom” campaign, which began in March 2012 with help from the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education and SEIU Local 99. Also known as “Second Chance Breakfast”, the Breakfast in the Classroom Program provides students a healthy meal before a full day of learning. Prior to the program, students would only benefit from the District’s breakfast program if they arrived to school before their first period. Approximately, only 30% of students eligible for the program were actually utilizing it. Through the collection of thousands of youth surveys, ICS found that most students were beginning their day without breakfast or were stopping by local liquor stores to purchase non-nutritious breakfast alternatives. After the first year of the Breakfast in the Classroom program, close to 210,000 students who attend 288 LAUSD schools participate in the program.

School Funding: ICS believes that our schools deserve a greater amount of funding in order to provide all students with a quality education. Conservative tax and fiscal policies have starved California schools of the necessary funding levels to ensure that student’s receive a quality education. This has impacted students of color more severely, since they have higher populations of families in poverty, ELL students and foster care children. Over the last 5 years, ICS has been working with a coalition of Community Organizations across California to fight for progressive tax and policy reform that will provide greater funding to education and other state social programs. Last fall, a coalition of community organizations, faith-based groups, advocates and unions worked collectively to support the passage of Proposition 30, California Governor Jerry Brown’s successful bid to raise taxes on the rich to increase state revenue for schools.

For more information about InterCity Struggle please visit their website at: www.innercitystruggle.org or contact Henry Perez, Associate Director of InnerCity Struggle at (323) 780-7605, henry@innercitystruggle.org. Follow them through Social Media: Twitter - @ICSEastLA, InstaGram - @INNERCITYSTRUGGLE, Facebook – Facebook.com/Innercitystruggle1994