New UCLA Study Maps Toxic Factory Locations, Including South LA + LAPD Detective Removed from Duty After Racially Charged Remarks



KCET: A team of UCLA researchers tracked the over 8 million pounds of toxic spew in LA county; check out the map for yourself here.

LA Times: Police officials are investigating a veteran detective’s alleged comments about shooting black men during a training lecture.

InsightNews:  South LA native Ice Cube talks to InsightNews about his upcoming movie “22 Jump Street” and his work with NWA.

LA Times: GOP gubernatorial hopeful Neel Kashkari brings his message to Living Gospel Church to talk about unemployment, education, and poverty.

NBC: Crenshaw businesses are feeling the squeeze as construction of the LAX light rail extension will continue for another six weeks.

USC DPS makes preparations for rivalry week

imageUSC’s Department of Public Safety will be employing all 242 officers and dispatchers to ensure safety of students and fans during the USC-UCLA game on Saturday. DPS officers will be working with the LAPD and private security to patrol the campus before the 7 o’clock game at the Coliseum.

Captain David Carlisle believes these security measures will ensure that students act responsibly before the game during the tailgates on and around campus.

And students are doing their part, as well.

Members of the Trojan Knights such as Chris Yoshonis have taken on the responsibility of guarding a duct-taped Tommy Trojan which has been a target for rival students.

And the constant presence of the Knight’s has even relieved the DPS of additional patrols on campus.

Study Shows Impact of the LA’s BEST After School Program

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News


From the time the bell rings to the moment their parents collect them, elementary students in the LA’s Best Program are encouraged to both focus on schoolwork and have fun.

Homework is mandatory, and they get help if they need it. But once its done there’s sports, games and art.

The study found that students in the program did better academically in middle school, performed better on standardized tests, and were more likely to take algebra in eighth grade.

Catherine Stringer is the vice president of communications and public affairs for LA’s Best.

“This is very exciting for us because our program only serves elementary school so we’re finding that the effect of the program in elementary school outlasts the program and continues with students as they get into middle school.”

Stringer said after-school programs provide a better environment. And these programs should be available to everyone.

“All children deserve this kind of enrichment, not just those whose families can afford it.”

Denise Huang is a senior research associate at CRESST and she was the project director for the LA’s Best study. She said the program’s effects continued through high school.

“Over the years we find that the la best participants have lower crime rate committed when we look at them into their high school years and they have lower dropout rate.”

Huang said the decrease in crime lowered the public cost for juvenile delinquency facilities. So much so, that every dollar invested in the program meant a two-dollar return in lower crime expenses.

El Camino College student’s success story includes transfer to UCLA

Solimar Flowers was waiting for the right time to make a change. The thought of going to college was always in the back of her mind, but for the last 18 years she was busy raising her two daughters while working as a nursing assistant. Then came a point about two years ago when she found herself in a situation where her job was coming to an end, her divorce became final, and her teenage daughters were ready for more independence.

“I saw the opportunity and decided to take it,” said Flowers, who will celebrate her 38th birthday on June 8, just two days before she graduates with honors from El Camino College on June 10 at Murdock Stadium. “I thought the timing was right. I was living in Los Angeles and one of my sisters told me about El Camino College. I wasn’t sure how to get started back then, but now I don’t want to stop.”

Flowers grew up in Belize and moved to California after graduating from high school. She was an outstanding student in her early years and managed to transition that success into her college career, which now includes plans to transfer to UCLA to pursue a major in sociology.

Approximately 174 El Camino College students were admitted to UCLA for the fall. Several were admitted into UCLA’s highly selective programs: two to the School of Theatre, Film & Television, three to the School of Nursing, and 13 were admitted to the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

A recipient of the 2011 El Camino College Presidential Scholar Award for the Behavioral and Social Sciences Division, Flowers maintained a 4.0 grade point average each semester, was a member of the Honors Transfer Program, and made the Dean’s List each semester. She was also a member of Alpha Gamma Sigma, the college’s academic honors society and service organization. The group recently honored her with an award for club participation.

Flowers was chosen as a recipient of the Exemplary Achievement Scholarship at the recent Honors Transfer Council of California Student Research Conference, one of only 20 awarded statewide. Mentored by ECC anthropology professor Marianne Waters, her award-winning research is titled, “The Need for Enrichment in Captive Primate Populations: Capuchin Monkeys as a Case Study.” In addition, her work placed second in the 2011 El Camino College Anthropology Research Symposium.

As part of the EOPS program, Flowers received additional support and the Lisa Whitehead Scholarship. She plans to pursue a career in public service, but her education comes first. After earning her bachelor’s degree from UCLA, she would like to earn master’s and doctorate degrees from Harvard University.

“It is possible to do it all with a lot of hard work and El Camino College really helped me get here,” she said. “I started in the counseling center and asked a lot of questions and spoke to a lot of people. They give out tons and tons of information. There are so many resources available at El Camino College; you just have to know how to use them. And I did.”

From Chinatown to China: Learning world languages in L.A. schools

By Jacquie Levy

imageSeated in a folding chair in the middle of Chinatown’s historic West Plaza, seven-year-old Aidan Garner’s short legs dangled his little feet above the ground as a concentrated expression washed over his face. He dipped a calligraphy brush almost as long as his whole arm into a bowl of black paint, and meticulously copied a series of connected lines from the paper beside him onto the newspaper in front of him. As an American-born, second-grade student, Garner had just done something that most American adults will never be able to do: he had written the Mandarin Chinese character for ‘moon cake’. As his mother looked proudly over his shoulder smiling, Garner declared, “I’m writing Chinese, it’s fun and easy!”

On that particular Saturday evening in Chinatown, the smell of Chinese food was especially strong and the clamor of voices was exceedingly loud. A diverse crowd of all ages and ethnicities from all over Los Angeles came to experience the 72nd annual Chinese celebration of the new autumn harvest moon, known as the Mid Town Moon Festival. While there were lots of exciting, kid-friendly activities like performances by Shaolin warriors and contortionists, Chinese cooking demonstrations, zodiac face painting, craft tables and ping-pong contests, many children were drawn to a more subdued activity: the Mandarin calligraphy workshop hosted by the UCLA Confucius Institute.

A young volunteer at the station who referred to himself as “the white guy who speaks Chinese,” enticed curious children and adults with the simple question, “Wanna give it a try?” Intrigued by the challenge, participants sat down at the U-shaped setup of folding tables that was scattered with newspapers, paint, and pictures of Chinese words commonly associated with the Moon Festival. George Yu, the Executive Director of Chinatown’s Business Improvement District, watched his 13-year-old daughter Elizabeth Yu and her 12-year-old friend Felicia Hano receive some personal Mandarin instruction from Qin Huang, a petite and expressive Confucius Institute volunteer, who also teaches Mandarin at a local middle school.

The scene mentally transported Yu to his younger days in Taiwan. “It’s important for them to be exposed to this,” he said. “I still remember this vividly, trying to do calligraphy in Taiwan.”

Yu moved to the United States when he was very little with what he described as “strict marching orders to assimilate as quickly as possible.” With little to no practice speaking Chinese since then, he said the extent of what he can do with his language now is order food from a Chinese restaurant.

Yu expressed concern that schools overseas have become much more competitive than they are here in America. This perception is echoed by the UCLA Confucius Institute whose website states that only 31 percent of American elementary schools report teaching a foreign language, while there are 200 million students in China taking English courses. For this reason, Yu said that any exposure kids can get to other languages, whether at school or at a festival in Chinatown, is important in keeping them competitive in an increasingly global workforce.

Exposure to Chinese language and culture is exactly what the Director of UCLA’s Confucius Institute, Susan Jain, looks to achieve from the institute’s participation in events like the Mid Town Moon Festival.

“It’s my way of doing propaganda. We need people to understand this country. Knowledge is power,” said Jain who has kids of her own, “I want to tell my kids about China and tell them we can’t just shut the door and say oh they’re a bad country.”

To spread this message, the Confucius Institute has focused on establishing Mandarin language programs in K-12 schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District. Their efforts have been aided by the federal government’s “strategic defense languages” initiative, created after the September 11th terrorist attacks to fund language programs in Chinese, Arabic, Farsi, and Korean. Jain said that these language skills will become invaluable to students as more and more industry and government jobs begin to require knowledge of Chinese and other Asian languages. The Confucius Institute is trying to get these programs started as early as possible in a child’s academic life.

“If they start when they’re five years old, they can pick up languages just like that, and their Chinese accents are beautiful,” said Jain who also explained the benefit of using language to teach science, math, art and music. “The calligraphy is fun for students because it incorporates art with language. It’s not boring, it’s a game, and they don’t realize they’re learning.”

Back in the classroom at Foshay Learning Center on South Harvard Boulevard and 37th Street, Qin Huang’s students call her Ms. Qin Qin (pronounced Chin Chin). Huang helps her students remember her name by joking that right now she has a double chin, but as she continues to get older and wiser, she might have a triple chin.

When Huang moved to America from Suzhou, China last year to attend California’s State University at Los Angeles, she got involved with a new program launched by the UCLA Confucius Institute called the “Mandarin Teaching Scholars Program”. The venture was created to offer fellowship support for people enrolled in teacher credential programs, in an effort to get more Mandarin teachers accredited and into LAUSD classrooms. In return for the scholarship support, Mandarin Teaching Fellows like Huang volunteer to teach up to 20 hours a week in a local school. After volunteering in Foshay’s elementary school last year, the learning center hired her on full time this year to pilot a Mandarin program in their Middle School.

Jain was impressed with what Huang had accomplished with the students at Foshay in only one year, “It’s amazing what she’s done with the kids.”

Broadway Elementary School on Lincoln Boulevard and Broadway Street, is another LAUSD school that adopted the Institute’s Mandarin Immersion program. After their first year with the program, Broadway reported that their Academic Performance Index (a measurement of academic performance and progress of individual schools in California) shot up over 107 points to 855 on a scale of 1000 points. Jain said that there is reason to believe this unusual achievement could be at least partially a result of the Mandarin instruction that challenges students to think in a completely different way.

Huang saw mixed reactions from her students at Foshay when she first started the program, “Some kids absolutely fall in love with it right away, some think it’s really weird.” But the kids eventually all warm up to the idea of learning Chinese as they start moving around, singing songs and playing games. Huang said learning a language is all about communication, so she prefers teaching the language interactively versus simply reading and writing or saying and repeating words.

One phrase you won’t hear in her classroom is ‘foreign language’. Huang said that she forbids her students from referring to languages like Mandarin, Arabic, and Farsi as ‘foreign’ because it’s a hurtful term.

“It makes people not want to touch it, it sounds scary,” said Huang. So instead, her students use the phrase “world language” in reference to Mandarin and other Asian languages. This is all part of her yearlong goal in the classroom to change the kids’ mindsets about these world languages and cultures, while expanding their horizons to different global opportunities.

You will often hear her telling her students, “It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s different.” And by the end of the school year, the kids start using this phrase too. Huang said, “I want my students to know that the Chinese culture, just like other Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, aren’t good or bad, they’re just different from their own, and that’s no reason to bomb them just because we don’t understand them.”