Toiler Times at Manual Arts High School

image Intersections South LA mentors work with students at Manual Arts High School to produce a student newspaper called The Toiler Times.

The Toiler Times features a variety of articles and opinion editorials on topics ranging from bullying to graduation.

Here are some of the articles from the latest edition:

Manual Arts debate team shows dedication

Bullying: An Issue for All

Teacher of the Month: Mr. Solis

What is wrong with Manual Arts?

What happens after death?

Students experiment with photography at Foshay Learning Center

As part of an Intersections photography workshop, students at Foshay Learning Center experimented with cameras on campus.

Interested in hosting a workshop at your school? Contact our mentoring team at [email protected] for more information.

Snapshots of the Foshay Learning Center

As part of an Intersections photography workshop, students at Foshay Learning Center experimented with cameras on campus.

Interested in hosting a workshop at your school? Contact our mentoring team at [email protected] for more information.

Behind the Lens: Photography at Foshay Learning Center

As part of an Intersections photography workshop, students at Foshay Learning Center experimented with cameras on campus.

Interested in hosting a workshop at your school? Contact our mentoring team at [email protected] for more information.

South Central Scholars funds futures

imageSouth Central Scholars alumnus Ricardo Elorza always knew he was college bound, but he also knew he had hurdles to overcome before reaching that goal.

In 1998, Elorza came to Pico-Union at age 11 from Mexico.

“Right at the onset, being an immigrant from Mexico, language was a great barrier for my success,” Elorza said.

Elorza, who attended Manuel Arts High School, explained that in school he would see apathy from some teachers, students, and administrators, in addition to a lack of resources and space in classes. According to Elorza, drug abuse, violence and gangs were “rampant in my high school.”

Elorza said that he would have been a “regular student, but thanks to South Central Scholars, I got a world of experiences.”

While many scholarship programs provide the resources for college-bound students to learn about time management, financial aid and careers, South Central Scholars goes a step further. South Central Scholars provides the desperately needed mentorship and scholarships that often make the difference between falling behind and succeeding, Elorza said.

The program focuses on assisting South Los Angeles high school students who exhibit passion and the capacity to succeed in college.

“We’re very much focused on kids who want to give back,” said Meredith Curry, the executive director of South Central Scholars. “We are really about being a family, so we want to make sure that a student’s personal statement, leadership or extracurricular activities show some kind of a passion for working with others and solving issues in their communities.”

South Central Scholars has a competitive application process. Out of approximately 1,000 students that the program reaches out to, roughly 350 apply and about 75 are accepted, according to Curry.

Students are selected based on several criteria: personal statements, test scores, high school transcripts, as well as their college acceptance letters and financial aid packages.

Throughout the year, South Central Scholars provides workshops for middle and high school students — and their parents — to help prepare them for their future academic careers.

The South Central Scholars program was founded by Dr. James London and Patricia London after they were inspired by reading the story of a dozen Crenshaw High school students in And Still We Rise: The Trials and Triumphs of Twelve Gifted Inner-City Students.

“In the beginning, the program was about scholarships, but the Londons found out that kids would end up going to community colleges because they still didn’t have all the money they needed to go to four-year universities,” Curry said. “These students were dealing with a learning curve. It was kind of a culture shock.”

Ricardo Elorza, who graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in English, said that he appreciated the summer conference that South Central Scholars provided before he entered his first year of college. The conferences are meant to prepare students mentally about what to expect in college.

South Central Scholars helped him to “develop a good grasp of what college should be.” Elorza said that the program “became the bridge between excellent and barely getting by.”

Before the program, he said his perspective of careers was limited.

But throughout his time at UCLA, Elorza had four mentors—with whom he still keeps in contact—who helped shape his future path. Now, he is applying to law school and is grateful that one of his mentors is an attorney and has been able to provide him guidance.

imageLike Elorza, Dominique Reese has used her connections from the South Central Scholars program to attend college and find a career.

Reese attended Crenshaw High School and applied to eight colleges, including Princeton, Stanford, USC and UCLA. She was accepted to them all and although she had never been to the East Coast, Reese chose to attend Princeton University.

“I was definitely college bound. I was a self-motivated student. When I was introduced to South Central Scholars, given their mission to support high achieving students in under-served areas, I was a perfect student for the program,” Reese said.

Although Reese grew up in South Los Angeles, she said she could not call the environment an obstacle, but only a distraction that she was determined to avoid.

“Sometimes I’d be doing my homework in front of a window and there’d be a drive by. I would just duck, and when the coast was clear, I would get back to doing my homework,” Reese said.

What she did see as an obstacle was the lack of resources at school. She took it upon herself to learn to fill in the holes in her education. She went to UCLA on the weekends to learn about the stock market, Reese said.

South Central Scholars helped Reese by pairing her with a mentor and providing a scholarship.

Three of Reese’s mentors were affiliated with Merrill Lynch where she interned. Upon graduation, Reese accepted a full-time job with Merrill Lynch.

Beyond graduation, both Elorza and Reese remain active members of South Central Scholar’s Alumni Association, which reaches out to schools that are not yet part of the scholarship program.

As part of her involvement with the Alumni Association, Reese recently secured a $15,000 grant for the College Access Conference and Institute. The eight-month institute will teach middle school students about college once a month.

Since May 2009, Reese has taught economic literacy to youth through the financial business she started in New York City, CommuniTree LLC.

Elorza received a grant to work with University of Southern California faculty member Willa Seidenberg in a project to archive and digitize his high school newspaper, the Toiler Times, which is the oldest high school newspaper in Los Angeles, Elorza said.

“South Central Scholars provides you with the confidence to become a leader,” Elorza said.

Photos courtesy of South Central Scholars

McCormick Foundation awards Intersections grant for media-mentoring in South Los Angeles

McCormick Foundation awards Intersections $95,000 to continue news and media-mentoring program in South L.A.

The McCormick Foundation announced it will award a $95,000 grant to Intersections: The South Los Angeles Report, a program of the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

The award will be used to continue the news and media-mentoring program in South Los Angeles high schools—Dorsey, Crenshaw, Fremont and Manual Arts—during the next two years. The grant supports the efforts of publications such as Intersections that align with its non-profit mission of being committed to the progression of honest and democratized news media.

“These active mentoring programs at South Los Angeles area high schools increase the number of students who are knowledgeable about how news media works and how they can shape and create the news from a diverse perspective within their communities,” said Willa Seidenberg, associate journalism professor and director of Intersections. “The USC mentors partner with local young people to foster future citizens who know they can have a voice in how their communities are portrayed in the news media.”

Funding from the McCormick Foundation also helped launch the Youth Media Los Angeles Collaborative, which promotes the field of youth journalism in the Southland.

“The Intersections program is one of the shining lights in the collaborative,” said Clark Bell, journalism program director at the McCormick Foundation. “Willa and her Intersections team have built a national model for combining talented high school and USC student journalists to cover community news.”

About Intersections: The South Los Angeles Report:
Intersections: The South Los Angeles Report is a community news website dedicated to covering South Los Angeles and surrounding areas, with contributions from residents, high school students and journalism students from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Intersections represents a new approach to journalism and news coverage. Community residents are encouraged to be active contributors in shaping news content, providing news items in a variety of forms, from video, photographs, opinion pieces, on-the-ground reporting, and entries to our community calendar. Our goal is to create a two-way conversation between residents living in South LA, Inglewood, Watts, Compton and other communities south of downtown Los Angeles and the journalists covering these neighborhoods. For more information, please visit

About the McCormick Foundation:
The McCormick Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to strengthening our nation’s civic health by creating educated, informed and engaged citizens. Through its grantmaking programs, Cantigny Park and Golf, and museums, the Foundation helps build citizen leaders and make life better in our communities. The Foundation was established as a charitable trust in 1955, upon the death of Colonel Robert R. McCormick, the longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The McCormick Foundation is one of the nation’s largest charities, with more than $1 billion in assets. For more information, please visit

Giving kids a second chance

Have you ever been fortunate enough to get a second chance? That’s the question one speaker put to the audience at the Foundation for Second Chances (FFSC) First Annual Leadership Gala. Those who have had a second chance can well appreciate what the work of the FFSC means to inner-city kids in South Los Angeles who face poverty, violence and poor educational access. The gala Friday, September 25, 2009 at the Proud Bird Restaurant was a celebration of the impact FFSC founder Melissa Wyatt and her dedicated band of volunteers have on children.

The mission of FFSC is to “ utilize hands-on education, mentoring, health, awareness, and community service to maximize the potential of youth.” FFSC carries out this mission with:

1) Community Service Program, including book and food drives, community health fairs and career days;
2) After School Programs, including 42nd Street Elementary;
3) Mentoring Program, which matches caring adults with kids in need of role models.

The master of ceremonies for the event was Grammy winner Mystic, who said “When children have access to mentor, they have a better chance to succeed.” Statistics may bear her out. A recent study by the California Mentoring Federation found that a whopping 98 percent of the youngsters who were matched with mentors stayed in school, did not become a teen parent and avoid participation in gangs. They were also less likely to use drugs.

Keynote speaker Democratic State Senator Curren Price spoke about the need for like-minded organizations to collaborate. In this time of recession and budget cutting, he urged non-profits to “step up to fill the gap.”

Several people were honored on Friday night:
Community Service Award: Leslie Belt-Adway of the Los Angeles Urban League
Inspiration Award: Darneika Watson-Davis, principal of 42nd Elementary
Business Award: Karen A. Clark of US Bank

But the real stars of the evening were Wyatt and her volunteers, many of whom found FFSC through Volunteer Match ( They have worked doggedly If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with FFSC, visit their website: