Graduation Motivation

IMG_0561Hoping it will motivate at-risk youth to stay in school, the Board of Supervisors is offering $500 to children of welfare recipients – if they earn a high school diploma or GED, and take a course in financial literacy.

The Board unanimously approved a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl authorizing the County’s Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) to implement an Educational Support Payment (ESP) pilot program.

“We are always supportive of innovative ideas to motivate young people to complete their high school education so that they are better prepared to enter the workforce or matriculate at institutions of higher education,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “The ESP pilot program is an example of outside-the-box thinking when it comes to raising graduation rates among economically disadvantaged young people.”

DPSS administers the State’s CalWORKs welfare program, which gives cash aid and services to some of the County’s most vulnerable families. Only half of adults receiving CalWORKs benefits have a high school diploma or GED. This is a huge barrier to employment, as with more than 85 percent of Americans 25 and older possessing high school diplomas, it has become increasingly difficult for those without diplomas or GEDs to become self-sufficient. The ESP pilot program can help break the cycle of generational poverty and dependency by incentivizing welfare recipients’ children to complete at least their secondary education, which should help them become successful and self-sufficient.

Under the ESP pilot program, 16 to 18-year-old children of CalWORKs participants who graduated from high school or earned a GED in May 2016 and before June 30, 2017 can earn $400 by providing proof of their high school diploma or GED. They can receive an additional $100 by completing a financial literacy course offered through the County’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs.

The motion also required that surveys be conducted and data be tracked to determine whether offering financial incentives makes a difference in GED/high school graduation rates. The estimated cost for the pilot is $3 million, based on 6,000 teens qualifying for both the $400 graduation payment and the $100 financial literacy class.

 

A Visionary Educator

Remarks by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on the Passing of USC President Emeritus Steven Sample

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“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of USC President Emeritus Steven Sample, a visionary educator and friend.

“Under his exemplary leadership, USC rose dramatically in academic rankings to become one of the nation’s elite universities. His writings on civic engagement have greatly inspired me in my work as a public servant. I will always be grateful that he chaired my transition team when I was elected to the Board of Supervisors.

“On a personal note, I will always cherish our friendship, which spanned more than 25 years. I offer my deepest condolences to his wife, Kathryn, their family, and all my fellow Trojans.”

 

*Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas completed a Ph.D. in Social Ethics at USC in 1989.

 

 

A New Era in Education

Statement from Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on the Appointment of Dr. Debra Duardo as Superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education:

 

Debra Duardo

Dr. Debra Duardo

“I look forward to Dr. Debra Duardo assuming the role of Superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education, and continuing the important work begun by Dr. Arturo Delgado.

“Dr. Duardo is an expert administrator with years of experience in trauma-informed education systems. She will bring her outstanding leadership on dropout prevention strategies, restorative justice and special needs education – and she will put students first.

“Dr. Duardo’s appointment comes just two months after Michelle King was named Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. It is unprecedented, and remarkable, that the two largest education agencies in Los Angeles are headed by Los Angeles natives and women of color who came through the very same systems that they now govern. I can think of no better role models for our students.”

Dr. Duardo holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a Doctorate from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

 

Diversity in the Arts

pic1Saying local arts institutions and programs need to reflect the rich diversity of Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors voted to look closely at ways to encourage the participation of underrepresented communities.

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board directed the County’s Arts Commission to develop proposals that would lead to more diverse boards, staff, audiences, exhibits, performances and programming at arts institutions.

It also sought ideas for encouraging individuals from underrepresented communities to have a career in the arts.

“Los Angeles County  is the creative capital of the world and a melting pot of cultures,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Its arts organizations and programs should reflect this rich diversity, as it will deepen their artists’ source of inspiration, broaden their audience, and enable them to attain long-term sustainability.”

In July 2015, the Mellon Foundation released a survey of diversity in American Art Museums and found that among museum leaders, only 4 percent are African American and 3 percent are Hispanic. It also found that while individuals from underrepresented communities account for about a third of museum staffers, they are concentrated in security, facilities, and other non-leadership positions.

“As a leader in the arts and perhaps the most diverse County in the nation, Los Angeles should be at the forefront of discussions and actions taken to improve cultural equity,” Supervisor Solis said. “Greater inclusion at all levels will strengthen our cultural institutions and help ensure maximum access to the arts for all, as well as future audiences and supporters for these important institutions.”

pic3Several prominent artists and leaders of arts institutions testified in support of the motion, including Los Angeles County Museum of Art Director Michael Govan, and La Bamba and NYPD Blue actor Esai Morales, who said, “Let’s enfranchise the people who make up this great city… and grow the audience for our craft.”

Also present were Music Center President and CEO Rachel Moore, IMAGEN Foundation Executive Director Helen Hernandez, Robey Theater Company Executive Director Ben Guillory, and East West Players Diversity Liaison Leslie Ishii.

According to the Otis Report on the Creative Economy, one out of every seven jobs in the County are in arts-related fields. Supervisor Solis said, “Children from every part of our community not only need access to a robust arts education, but also need a robust pipeline for entering these jobs.”

“It is not enough to mount an occasional exhibit, or produce a six-week run of a play or musical, to signal meaningful change and efforts,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “That is why a study led by the Arts Commission, with input from an advisory group comprised of arts and community leaders, should be formed to identify best practices.”

Arts Commission Executive Director Laura Zucker said the County is “taking the lead in a significant conversation,” adding “this is a tremendous opportunity.”

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LA County Hosts First-Ever Hack Day

Los Angeles County hosted its first hack day aimed at engaging, educating, and empowering boys and girls of color to break into the field of Information Technology. South LA Hack Day, was held Saturday, October 24 at the Lennox Library and Constituent Services Center, and coincided with Open Data Week.

“South LA Hack Day encourages innovation by introducing young coders to develop software applications,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “This kind of outreach will help keep Los Angeles County on the cutting edge of technology.”

HackDayTechnology giants Microsoft, IDEO, CGI and NeoGov led a series of workshops for about 100 youth ages 16-25 about such topics as turning an idea into a product, developing software applications, and launching a career in Information Technology.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who played a crucial role in making vast troves of County data and records public through the creation of the user-friendly website data.lacounty.gov, hosted the event. He will be joined by representatives from the County’s Department of Human Resources, Public Library, and Office of the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, as well as community partners Girl Code LA, Urban Teens Exploring Technology, and Digital LA.

Microsoft led a workshop about mining open data to create software applications, and ZeneHome founder Chris Shafer was among the speakers. A recent graduate of the University of Southern California, Shafer used property data provided by the County to create a real estate web application that helps to educate home owners, brings transparency to the home ownership experience, and optimizes financing options.

“We are heavily utilizing the information provided via the open data initiative to fulfill our mission,” Shafer said. “We are very thankful for this public data.”

Also leading a workshop was IDEO, a design firm whose innovations include Apple’s first mouse and whose next project is updating the County’s voting system. At South LA Hack Day, IDEO asked the junior computer scientists for feedback on how to make voting more accessible to the younger generation. Their input will be integrated into the new voting system.

In a separate workshop, the County Department of Human Resources, NeoGov and CGI  discussed opportunities for launching a young coder’s career in the field of Information Technology. NeoGov is an on-demand human resources company designing software for the public sector. CGI is among the leading independent Information Technology and business services firms in the world.

South LA Hack Day also coincided with Girls Empowerment Month throughout the County, and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas conducted significant outreach to bridge the digital divide. Women represent only 6% of corporate Chief Information Officers but at the event, girls and young women almost half of those registered to participate.

Los Angeles native Dez White is one of the youngest female African-American tech entrepreneurs to invent and launch a suite of apps with her company, Invisible Text. She also founded Girl Code LA, a community partner for Saturday’s event, as way to mentor girl coders.

“I think young women don’t even realize computer sciences are an option,” White said. “I was intimidated at first, and now I’m in love with technology.” White shared her success story with young coders on Saturday.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has long been a leader in advancing the county’s Information Technology systems and his accomplishments include:

“The future of our county depends on the digital literacy of its residents,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Bridging the digital divide with diversity will allow Los Angeles County to play a pivotal role as a tech leader in the years ahead.”