Second chance for high school dropouts in South LA

image Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa unveiled 13 new YouthSource Centers on Friday with four of them located in South Los Angeles, and tasked with the goal of getting high school dropouts to finish their education.

The Youth Source system is a redesign of Los Angeles’ OneSource Center, which previously focused on job searching efforts for in-school youth. Now, the agenda has shifted to get out-of-school youth back into school to receive their high school diploma or pass the General Educational Development (GED) test.

Mike Fong, east area director for the City of Los Angeles and senior liaison to Asian Pacific Islander community, said the criteria for where the centers would be placed was the “fairly high dropout rates” of high schools in the city.

imageThere were seven planning areas such as South L.A., and within those areas are one or several YouthSource centers. Fong said each center is operated by a non-profit organization.

“It was a competitive process and raters looked at proposals and picked the best operators that would fulfill the need for the community,” said Fong.

In South LA, two centers are operated by Watts Labor Community Action Center and the others by Brotherhood Crusade and Archdiocesan Youth Employment.

Fong said each center services neighboring high schools and is employed with a full-time Pupil Services and Attendance Counselor who reaches out to out-of-school students from a list of high school dropouts. Students are also free to join the center themselves said Fong.

In order for students to become involved in the YouthSource program, they must be 16 to 21 years old, live in Los Angeles and be income eligible. Students are asked to be involved with the program for at least one year where they receive guidance on reenrolling in high school and various other services like work readiness and computer training.

Fong said the future of the YouthSource system is to decrease high school dropout rates and prepare students for college and work.

“This is really a second chance opportunity,” said Fong.

The system, managed by the City’s Community Development Department, was made possible through $13 million annually provided by the Federal Workforce Investment Act and a new $12 million grant from the Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation Fund.

Michelle King, assistant superintendent at Los Angeles Unified School District said there are a variety of student recovery programs in place, but what differentiates the YouthSource Centers is the umbrella of services it provides students from family to financial concerns.

“It’s like a case worker. It’s not just to get them back in school, but to stay,” she said.

King said the dropout rate for LAUSD is at 24 percent, the lowest in five years, compared to its previous standing at 33 percent, and the high school graduation rate is 64 percent.

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