Building Metro’s Future Workforce at Vermont & Manchester

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, behind the podium at center, celebrates with Metro’s Transportation Career Academy Program interns after a press conference announcing the creation of a Transportation School at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Manchester Boulevard in South LA. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

The Board of Supervisors authorized negotiating with the SEED Foundation to operate a one-of-a-kind charter boarding school focused on preparing youth for careers in the transportation industry in partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The Transportation School will be the centerpiece of a mixed-use development envisioned on 4.2 acres at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Manchester Boulevard in South Los Angeles. The project will also include retail, affordable housing, a workforce training center, and other amenities.

Metro CEO Phillip Washington and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with renderings of the Vermont Manchester project. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the Transportation School will prepare local youth, particularly those within Los Angeles County’s safety net, to join the workforce of the future. It will not only provide a college preparatory education but also wraparound services, particularly for students involved with the County’s Departments of Children and Family Services and Probation, and students who have experienced homelessness.

“SEED has an impressive track record operating several successful public boarding schools,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Their high-quality curricula will prepare students not just for college, but for life.”

L-R: Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LA County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Debra Duardo, and Metro Transportation Career Academy Program Student Sumaiya Sabnam. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

Established 20 years ago, the SEED Foundation is the nation’s first and only network of public, college-preparatory boarding schools designed for students who need — and deserve — a 24-hour learning environment to achieve their full potential.

“We are deeply committed to working with the neighborhood and to making sure that this school is a tremendous community asset,” said Anita Landecker, president & CEO of ExED, one of the SEED Foundation’s proposed partners for the Transportation School.

Noelle, an 18-year-old foster youth, told the Supervisors that a boarding school would have been a tremendous benefit to someone like her. Since entering the foster care system at age 11, she has had to attend 18 different schools and stay in 10 foster homes, nine group homes and three shelters. Noelle currently has a three-hour commute between her current group home and school.

L-R: Pastor Anthony Williams, Anita Landecker and Noelle testify before the Board of Supervisors. Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors.

“I never had the option of going to a boarding school. I never had the option of making stable relationships with my teachers and peers at school, because of all the moving,” Noelle told the Board. “When you move a lot, you begin to just shut out people because you know you’re going to leave and you know you won’t be able to keep these connections. It was hard.”

With Measure M expected to generate enough funds to support 778,000 new transportation jobs over the next 40 years, and almost 40 percent of its employees eligible for retirement over the next two and a half years, Metro is sorely in need of well-trained workers. The Transportation School, serving youth from 9th through 12th grade, will be an entry point into Metro’s career Workforce Development Initiative.

Supporters of the Transportation Project. Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors.

Metro CEO Phillip Washington stressed, however, that students will have a wide range of career opportunities upon graduation. “What we’re talking about here is a Transportation School, not just a transit school,” he testified before the Board. “We’re talking about ports and aviation, and getting young people in Los Angeles County ready for careers in the global transportation industry.”

Los Angeles County took possession of the Vermont and Manchester lot in May after a judge approved its use of eminent domain. By then, the lot had been vacant for much of the last 26 years, since sustaining damage in the 1992 Civil Unrest.

Rendering of proposed Vermont Manchester project by Killefer Flammang Architects.

Several members of the community blessed the vision for the Transportation School. Pastor Anthony Williams of the 88th Street Temple Church of God in Christ said, “We need hope, we need opportunity, we need jobs, and this school is going to uplift the community.”

Robert Rubin, executive director of the Vermont Village Community Development Corporation, said that while he found it “surreal” to finally see activity on a lot that had been vacant for a quarter century, “it’s very refreshing to know that we have a great opportunity to succeed this time around.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Metro CEO Phillip Washington with Metro’s Transportation Career Academy Program interns participating in a “visioning exercise” at the future site of a Transportation School in South LA. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.