Freedom Schools End with Grand Celebration

Freedom Schools Finale - Ladera ParkEight-year-old, Laci Martin of Compton enjoyed attending her summer literacy enrichment program, so much last year she couldn’t wait to return to Read Lead’s Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School in Lynwood this year.

“Last year I wasn’t a good reader, but now I can read 141 words a minute,” Laci said enthusiastically. “I’ve read so many books this summer, I can’t count how many books I’ve read.”

Laci was one of more than 450 Freedom Schools scholars, ages 5 to 18 celebrating the end of their summer Freedom School program, a six week long program created by the Children’s Defense Fund to prevent the effects of summer learning loss. Throughout the summer, six Freedom Schools sites throughout the Second District, provided these young scholars with a curriculum that was both challenging and entertaining, with activities that included reading, art, dance, music, field trips, athletics and community service.

The model is based on an idea born 50 years ago this summer, during the crucible of the civil rights movement. In 1964, in what came to be called the Mississippi Freedom Summer, when college students from around the nation descended on the state to help African-Americans register to vote and to teach black children as an alternative to Mississippi’s underfunded and segregated school system. For many pupils, the Freedom Schools provided their first introduction to literature by and about black people, encouraging them to both read about and write their own stories.

Freedom Schools Finale - Ladera ParkFast-forward to 2014, and students in today’s Freedom Schools received similar encouragement. As it did 50 years ago, a love of reading blossomed in these young ones too. That’s crucial, because studies have shown that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds suffer a significant learning gap during the 11 weeks of summer vacation.

For the nearly 500 children of the Second District Freedom Schools, however, much of that gap was filled with mentoring, lessons and field trips. At the program’s end, children and their teachers gathered at Ladera Park in Los Angeles recently for a special culmination party. In addition to singing, chanting and celebrating their newfound love of reading, they were treated to a reading from Donzaleigh Abernathy, actress, author and daughter of the legendary civil rights leader Rev. Ralph Abernathy.

She read from her book, Partners to History and told the children how during slavery, reading was not an option for many and in fact, slave owners punished blacks who tried to learn to read.

Freedom Schools Finale - Ladera Park“I wanted to share that history and that’s why I decided to read the book today,” Abernathy, who knew Martin Luther King, Jr. so well he was like an uncle, said. “ I wrote the book because I love my dad and I love Uncle Martin and they made it possible for me to be free in the world.”

In addition, the students were treated to a special baseball clinic by the Los Angeles Dodgers. They learned about earthquake safety, climbed aboard a fire engine and stopped by the Los Angeles County Public Library’s Urban Outreach Bookmobile.

Freedom Schools Finale - Ladera Park“All children are entitled to a strong learning environment,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has sponsored 16 sites over the past five years. “Freedom Schools instill an unstoppable love of learning and reading that positively affects every child. It is always an honor to see the desire to learn passed down to generations.”

As part of the program, college students serve as “Servant Leader Interns” who are trained to work as reading tutors and role models, motivating children to develop positive attitudes about themselves and their abilities. For first-time Freedom Schools Community Coalition Servant Leader Intern, Yvette Aragon, 23 of Los Angeles, the finale was bittersweet.

“I’m happy to be here with my scholars but to see the program end makes me sad,” Aragon said. “I’m so proud of them, not just my scholars but all the scholars here. They are dynamic and I know they are going to be future leaders.”

Hellen Keller Read Lead Servant Leader Intern Crystal Leon, 26 agreed with Aragon: “It’s a lot of hard work, dedication and long hours but at the end of the day when you make a difference in someone’s life, it’s all worth it.”

 

Another Summer of Literacy: Freedom Schools are Here

For the fifth summer in a row, the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools, an exciting six-week summer literacy and enrichment program for children ages 5 to 18-years-old, are coming to the Second District. Beginning June 16, six different sites will roll out the popular educational program.

In addition, five county probation camps will also take part in the innovative program, which has had national success in improving participants’ self-confidence, instilling a love of learning and bolstering reading comprehension. Now in its second year, the Freedom School probation camp program is part of a broader effort to enhance the educational approach in youth camps so they more focused on providing a positive learning experience to wards.

Established in 1992 by Children’s Defense Fund founder and children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman, Freedom Schools provide rigorous, quality summer and after school instruction to children in urban environments. The programming, which is both challenging and entertaining, is based on the belief that all children are capable of learning and achieving high standards.

Low-income children are particularly vulnerable to the “summer learning gap”— when many children fall behind in reading and math during the nearly three long months of summer vacation.

Students begin the morning with Harambee, a time of informal sharing based on the Kenyan tradition of community, in which students read aloud, sing, cheer and chant motivational songs, announcements and recognitions, closing with a moment of silence. The children then go on to read and make their stories come to life by painting and drawing them. They dance and sing and go on field trips, play sports and make time for community service.

“The Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools ensure that children, regardless of race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status or gender have a healthy and fun place to learn over the summer,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who initiated the partnership with CDF in the Second District. “I’ve seen the excitement, the enthusiasm and the results over the years – that’s why this has been an annual event in the Second District. This program plants the seeds for a positive future for our children, giving them what I hope will be a life-long love of reading.”

For more information: http://www.childrensdefense.org/programs-campaigns/freedom-schools/about/
Or call: 213-355-8787

South L.A. Residents to Receive Life Saving Care Faster

When someone is having a heart attack, time is of the essence; minutes after it stops receiving blood, the heart muscle begins to die causing permanent damage. Eventually, the heart will simply stop. In South Los Angeles, however, the nearest available treatment was more than 10 miles away – and many minutes away to hospitals around the county as far as Torrance or downtown Los Angeles.

No longer.

St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood is now a certified ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction (known as STEMI) Center, offering trained cardiologists and immediate treatment for anyone suffering a heart attack.  There are now 34 such centers in LA County, with St. Francis and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center as the other such locations in the Second District.  The new center is particularly important for Los Angeles County, considering that coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death for residents–with blacks and Latinos suffering the highest rates among all other ethnic groups.

The Catheterization Lab where patients are taken to have any angioplasty procedures and stents placed.

“The heart is a muscle like the brain,” said Adam Garcia, a cardiovascular and radiology technician at St. Francis. “If it doesn’t get fed, it won’t do well. And so that is why we have to take care of the problem as fast as possible.”

Within minutes at St. Francis, trained staff can stabilize a patient, insert a stent in a blocked artery or perform surgery. The STEMI Center compliments The Heart Center at St. Francis Medical Center, which has a full-time staff of cardiologists, specialty trained nurses, surgeons and technicians who offer a full range of heart care services. Quick treatment can not only save lives, but also reduce the risk of long-term heart damage and prevent life-threatening complications.

“We needed to provide this care and so this is super exciting,” said Dr. Michael Stephen, Chief of Staff, St. Francis Medical Center.

Added Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who attended the launch of the new center: “The residents of South Los Angeles deserve access to high-quality services in their community and the opening of this new receiving center does just that.  Lives will be improved and even saved because of what is happening today.”

Can Housing L.A. County’s Homeless Families Save Money?


In Los Angeles County, 7,391 families struggle nightly to find a way to survive without shelter. In 2010, several agencies began to develop a regional approach to providing not just housing, but supportive services and need-based assistance to better help homeless families regain stability. In some cases, mental health and substance abuse services, or housing assistance made the difference.

The Family Solutions Centers started last March with $3.7 million in city and county funding, with the goal of rapidly rehousing homeless households and offering centers throughout Los Angeles County where homeless can go to have problems professionally assessed. To date, there are seven lead agencies that host Family Solution Centers in six of the eight service planning areas in Los Angeles County. These Family Solutions can direct families to health services, employment assistance services, rental assistance or emergency housing. And the program has already proven to be successful, having seen 1,542 families between March and December. Three hundred and two of those families were able to avoid homelessness, 305 were placed in interim housing, and 417 were provided permanent housing.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an additional $10.2 million to set up more Family Solution Centers to offer more services. An additional $2.4 million is also being considered for mental health services. The centers will extend to at least eight agencies and promises to service all eight service planning areas in Los Angeles County. The services will be expanded to include social service case managers and substance abuse treatment. The expanded program will promote collaboration between public agencies and homeless service providers and be called the Homeless Family Solutions System. The system also includes the collection of data to assess which programs are working and to track long term success with families.

“Families are the core of our community,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “And today we have the opportunity to improve the way we deliver services to those families most in need.”

Christine Mirasy-Glasco, executive director of Upward Bound House, a community-based social service agency, testified before Board of Supervisors Tuesday in support of expanding Family Solutions Centers. The centers, she said, have streamlined the process of getting help for families. “Families used to have to travel around the entire county every day looking for services,” Mirasy-Glasco said. “This changes all of that.”

A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that 85 percent of homeless people in Philadelphia who were given housing and support were still in housing two years later and were unlikely to become homeless again.
Research shows that people spend less time in expensive emergency rooms and hospital beds when they have housing. Children are able to attend school and do homework when they have a warm home, a bed to sleep in and a sturdy table to write on.

“It is a proven program. It works. And it’s been evaluated,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added, “Without question, supporting homeless families with services and housing saves money in the long run. It simply costs less to serve and house than it does to ignore. It’s an investment in our future.”

Click here for more information about Family Service Centers.

New Surgical Building Inaugurated at Harbor-UCLA

Walking through the gleaming new hallways, inspecting the state of the art equipment and monitors of the new emergency/trauma and surgery building at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in January,  Dr. Timothy Van Natta could not stop smiling. As the interim chief medical officer of the hospital, he remembers the challenges of performing heart surgery or operating on a gunshot wound in the cramped spaces of the old hospital, built in 1963.

In April, however, his entire staff will be working in the new facility, which was constructed and finished on time and $10 million under budget. The expansive 190,000 square-foot facility features separate adult and pediatric emergency departments with a total of 80 treatment rooms, seven trauma resuscitation rooms, 16 operating rooms, and pre- and post-operative patient areas — significantly more than the capacity of the older facility.

“The people of the county who receive their healthcare here are going to have a much, much better experience than they have had in the past,” said Van Natta, noting that the ER has approximately 80,000 visits per year.

The new building also has a radiological suite that includes x-ray, ultrasound and CT technology housed directly in the ER so patients do not have to be transported across the hospital for diagnostic tests. The new facility forms one part of a larger, more holistic approach to healthcare that emphasizes prevention. With the Affordable Care Act, patients have more choices, so county facilities had to keep up to be competitive, noted Delvecchio Finley, chief executive officer of the hospital.

“For a long time county facilities have always been competitive on quality of care…but where we struggled a little bit was on the service side…Buildings like this, really provide a healthcare experience that complements the quality of care,” said Finley. Lastly, he noted that part of having a better patient experience includes aesthetics, so the new hospital has a vast collection of donated art hanging from its walls that is both soothing and pleasing to the eye.

The new hospital which was under construction for three years, has long been a priority for Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the district where the hospital is located.

“This is a commitment on the part of the County of Los Angeles to deliver high quality emergency and trauma care in this new health care reform era,” the supervisor told a crowd of more than a hundred physicians, nurses, hospital staff and elected officials on the inauguration day. “This is a day to celebrate.”

For some patients, the new hospital is just the icing on an institution that already had excellent patient care. In December 2012, Richard Williams’ 13-year-old son Ricky was stabbed in the heart. Doctors gently warned Williams that it would be touch and go, but after several hours of surgery, Ricky was saved.

“This new building means a lot to me,” said Williams. “It signifies not only new technology, but also how many other families will be saved here.”