Poor living conditions effect kids in South LA + First ‘hydration station’ opens at high school

Thomas Jefferson High School recently installed a hydration station to encourage students to drink more water. (Intersections South LA)

Thomas Jefferson High School recently installed a hydration station to encourage students to drink more water. (Intersections South LA)

Harm at Home: Mold, roaches in South LA apartments trigger asthma, school absences: Mold and cockroaches continue to plague many residents and can cause a host of health issues. Some children have become so sick that their education has suffered. (Southern California Public Radio)

South Los Angeles Youth Debut School Hydration Station: The first hydration station in South LA was opened at Thomas Jefferson High School. School administrators and the National Health Foundation worked to provide clean drinking water to promote better health for students. (Sentinel News Service)

A Researcher’s Instagram Account Celebrates The ‘Blaxicans’ Of South Los Angeles: An Instagram project from native Angeleno depicts the lives and struggles of biracial people in South Los Angeles. (Fusion)

Judge orders classes back at South LA’s Jefferson High

By Taylor Haney

Jefferson High School

Jefferson High School

LAUSD officials met with staff at Jefferson High School Thursday to talk about incomplete course schedules. A lack of resources has been keeping many students out of their required classes — or any classes at all. Yesterday, a Calif. Superior Court judge ordered the state to fix scheduling problems at the South L.A. high school.

One student told Annenberg Radio News that his schedule “wasn’t right” for him. For others, classes they needed just didn’t exist.

Click play to hear their comments: 


The ACLU of Southern California had lodged a complaint in May naming a few specific schools and detailing their problems. Here’s how they map out.

See also: #TBT South LA: Jeffferson High School, 1938

#TBT South LA: Jefferson High, 1938

Jefferson High 1938

A Jefferson High Yearbook from 1938 photographed at the Southern California Library | Daina Beth Solomon

When Jefferson High School opened in 1916, South Los Angeles was beginning to reflect the diversity of people immigrating to Los Angeles from around the country and the world. By 1938, a single page in the yearbook listed names as diverse as “Satoshi Suzuki,” “Dora Mae Ten,” “Esperanza Garza” and “Marcellus Reed.” The faces staring up — some serious, some smiling — come from Black, Latino, Asian and White backgrounds.

While diversity in the city as a whole has continued increasing, South L.A. in some areas has become more homogenous. These days, the neighborhood surrounding Jefferson is 91 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Black and 1 percent Asian, according to the 2012 American Community Survey. Now that will be a different kind of yearbook.

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This yearbook resides in the archives of the Southern California Library

Got a historical photo from South L.A.? Email it to [email protected] to be featured in the next “Throwback Thursday South L.A.”

USC Rossier School of Education supports South LA teachers


Dr. Aissa Riley, USC graduate and teacher at Jefferson High School. | Grace Lim

Even teachers who have graduated with master’s degrees from USC’s Rossier School of Education may need some help with running their classrooms — and Rossier is ready to pitch in. The school is creating a system where alumni can access resources such as faculty assistance. Dr. Aissa Riley, a USC graduate and teacher for ten years at South L.A.’s Jefferson High School, thinks the new initiative will be invaluable.

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News to hear her comments: 

[Read more…]

Jefferson High School student concerned about cuts

An email came in to the Intersections South LA account late last night from Jefferson High School student, who only wants to be known as Gerry L. with “urgently important” in the subject line. We reproduce here in its entirety.

To Whom It May Concern,

Hello, my name is Gerry L. and I attend Thomas Jefferson High School, located in the south Los Angeles area.

With the current weight of the economy, there have been severe cuts to education. Being a school under the Los Angeles Unified School District, and in a more infamous area of Los Angeles, it has hit our community harder. I am currently a senior on my way towards graduating and have spent most of my four years of high school involved with the music program, as a member of various musical ensembles. After being notified about the measures that will take place this upcoming school year, I could not sit around and do nothing while my school faces such critical times. [Read more…]

New wellness center opens at Jefferson High


Jefferson High School celebrated a new addition Thursday. The newest building at the end of the athletic field looks like most of the others on the school’s campus, but inside it looks like a doctor’s office.

“The health clinic that we have today, this will be something that the community will have involvement in, they can utilize the three different areas of service that we have here whether its physical health or mental health or dental health. Our students will be able to take advantage of that as well during the school day or after school,” says Michael Taft, the principal of Jefferson.

Until now, the school just had a nurse to help their 2,000 students with health issues, but over the last five years they have been planning with LAUSD and the South Central Family Health Center to expand their services. They will now be able to offer much needed preventive health care services, STD checks, and help for chronic issues like asthma and diabetes.

The new health clinic at Jefferson is one of 15 wellness centers that LAUSD will be opening on school campuses this year.

Rene Gonzalez, executive director for health and human services at LAUSD helped organize the project. He says, “We believe that in order to make a difference in the health of children, we have to make a difference in the health of the community.”

All of the new health centers will be located in areas with high health risks and low access to healthcare and will provide services not just to students, but to community members as well.

LAUSD used $ 34 million from a voter-approved fund to pay for the construction of the new health centers. Operation costs will be covered by other community organizations. The South Central Family Heath Center partnered with LAUSD for Jefferson’s new clinic.

“We can compete with anyone in terms of quality,” says South Central Family Health Clinic CEO, Richard Veloz. “We have a sliding fee scale – not for the students – but for anyone else in the community there’s a sliding fee scale if they don’t have insurance. But we accept all insurances,” and for students of Jefferson High seeking healthcare, Veloz says, “No cost.”

The next new health center on a school campus will open at Carson High School.

LISTEN: State of the City address

imageMayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued his sixth State of the City Address from a podium at Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles Wednesday.

During the 33-minute speech, he highlighted improvements in policing and transportation and called for improvements in the Los Angeles educational system.

Listen to highlights from the speech:

Los Angeles mayor gives State of the City address

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


image Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promised to focus on education reform at the annual State of the City address on Wednesday.

“Well, it is true that I don’t have any formal authority over our schools,” Villaraigosa said. “I do have a bully pulpit, and I will continue to use it.”

Villaraigosa called for a shift in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He says school leaders are the most important agent for change and that expiration of union contracts in June could open up a new door.

“With the stars aligned, we have to seize the opportunity,” Villaraigosa said. “Let’s negotiate a new contract that empowers teachers, parents and principals at all schools. Let’s stop dictating at the district level, and let our local schools make the calls on budget, staffing, curriculum, schedule and professional development.”

The mayor also proposed compensating teachers for their proven effectiveness in the classroom.

“We need to create career pathways that reward our most effective teachers,” Villaraigosa said. “We need to reform a broken tenure system and do away with the last hired, first fired seniority system. It’s demoralizing to teachers, and it doesn’t serve our students. We need to create a multiple level evaluation system.”

But Dr. Aissa Riley, a world history teacher at Jefferson High School, opposes the mayor’s proposal.

“What that equates to in our mind is we get rid of the more senior teachers because they get paid a lot more,” Riley said. “So if a teacher’s making $80,000 because they’ve been working here for 20 years, well, we can fire that person and hire two more.”

Dr. Riley also expressed concerns regarding the prospect of more public-private partnerships. She said the private school operators do not accept all students.

“So what happens is when a student isn’t working out at one of their schools, they get sent here (Jefferson),” Riley said. “And we end up having larger class sizes in the middle of the year because all these students are coming mid-year because they’ve been kicked out of their other schools, and it also has a lot of students who if they couldn’t cut it at the other school, now we have to deal with him. Our school somewhat becomes a dumping ground for all these charter schools quote unquote bad kids. And then it lowers the quality of education for other students who we’ve been working with all year long.”

Villaraigosa used the rest of his State of the City speech to address unemployment rates. He noted that unemployment rates in South Los Angeles dropped from last month. He also praised the America Fast Forward plan – a plan that would create 166,000 new jobs in the city.

INFOGRAPHIC: Mayor talks education reform, budget during State of the City address

Education reform was the focus of Mayor Villaraigosa’s sixth State of the City address Wednesday.

Located at Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles, Villaraigosa encouraged lawmakers, educators and residents to take a stand in improving Los Angeles’s schools.

That education focus is clearly seen in the infographic below, a look at the most commonly used words in Villaraigosa’s speech.