Featured items on homepage for top stories…

Reading out loud and celebrating the power within at Freedom Schools

There were laughs, smiles, and cheers from the group of about 50 students, ages five to 13 years old, who sat mesmerized as Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas flipped the pages and read Dylan Pritchett’s The First Music aloud at First Church of God’s Freedom School summer literacy program in Inglewood.

Students shared their favorite types of music with the Supervisor, sang and chanted motional songs and even showed off their acting and vocal skills by narrating the book through sound effects as the Supervisor read out loud. It was a morning filled with joy and the love of learning.

View more videos at: http://www.nbclosangeles.com.

Throughout the six-week literacy and enrichment program, the Supervisor will be visiting and interacting with students at each of the four Freedom School sites in the second district: First Church of God in Inglewood; First New Christian Fellowship in South L.A., Bethel A.M.E. Church in South L.A. and Community Coalition at Foshay Learning Center in South L.A. To date, over 200 students have enrolled into the second district summer program.

As part of the Freedom School Curriculum, all students read books, participate in arts, crafts, dance, sports and music, go on field trips, and engage in community service in a nurturing environment that fosters growth and development.

[pullquote_right]”This program uniquely integrates reading, learning, and civic engagement,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.[/pullquote_right]Freedom School’s were established in 1992 by Children’s Defense Fund founder and children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman. They provide rigorous,  quality summer and after school instruction to children who live in urban areas. The programming, which is both challenging and entertaining, is based on the belief that all children are capable of learning and achieving high standards.

The program is rooted in the work of the Civil Rights movement, specifically the work of college-age youth during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. Freedom Schools apply an intergenerational approach in which college students are trained as “Servant Leader Interns” who work as reading tutors and role models, motivating children to develop positive attitudes about themselves and their abilities.

Last summer, the Children Defense Fund Freedom School program served over 9,600 children in 84 cities and 29 states, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, worked with Edelman to introduce the program to the Second District last July.

“This program uniquely integrates reading, learning, and civic engagement,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.”  Not only do the children have a wonderful time — I didn’t see a single child today who wasn’t fully engaged and enthusiastic — but the Freedom School curriculum instills tools that are essential to lifelong personal and community empowerment.”

General Press Release (PDF)
First Church of God Freedom School (Photo Slideshow)
Bethel AME Church Freedom School (Photo Slideshow)

Heroes On & Off The Court – Laker Legends, Jerry West & Ron Artest

Before a crowd of 200 onlookers, the Board of Supervisors, made a special presentation to honor Los Angeles Lakers’ Champion Ron Artest and Laker Legend Jerry West at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors Meeting, July 12 in the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.

Mr. Artest was recognized for his advocacy and commitment to promoting mental health awareness and encouraging youth to seek mental health services by spreading his message of wellness and recovery.

One year after publicly thanking his psychiatrist for helping him win the Lakers‘ 2010 championship, Mr. Artest continues to vouch for the importance of mental health services. Earlier this year he partnered with the County of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Unified School District and spoke to 150 Jefferson High Schools students to address the stigma associated with seeking help and offered his young listeners words of encouragement.

The Board also honored 2007 California Sports Hall of Fame Inductee Jerry West for his dedication to the Los Angeles Watts Summer Games of which Mr. West serves as honorary chair for basketball. West, played for and coached the Lakers from 1960 to 1979.
Photos of Jerry West (click here)

In his acceptance speech, Mr. West spoke of being from a small town in West Virginia, leaving home as a young man, falling in love with Los Angeles, and
dedicating his life to serving others.

The Summer Games, modeled after the Olympic Games by William Sims and members of the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce promotes positive interaction through competition in athletics, art, and scholastics. To date more than 7,000 athletes have competed and developed their athletic talent by participating in the Los Angeles Watts Summer Games.

Ron Artest and Jerry West were available before and after the board presentation for autographs, conversations, and photos with high school students and athletes from the Los Angeles Watts Summer Games.

CBS News (Click Here)

Daily News Article (Click Here)

Dinosaur Hall Opening at the Natural History Museum

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has been a long-time advocate and supporter of the Natural History Museum, spoke at the museum’s preview for the New Dinosaur Hall.[pullquote_right]”This museum is a county gem and asset not only to the Los Angeles area, anchoring the Downtown and Exposition Park neighborhoods, but really enriching the entire region,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. [/pullquote_right]

On July 16, 2011, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County passed the halfway mark in its seven-year self-transformation when it opens its all-new, 14,000-sqaure-foot Dinosaur Hall. Twice the size of the Museum’s previous dinosaur exhibits, the Dinosaur Hall will feature more than 300 fossils, 20 full-body specimens, an array of manual and digital interactive displays, and video presentations. It is designed to allow visitors to get up close to real fossils in a way that engages visitors with the discovery and research programs of the Museum’s own Dinosaur Institute, led by world-renowned paleontologist and exhibit lead curator, Dr. Luis Chiappe.

The world’s only Tyrannosaurus rex growth series, presenting extraordinary fossils specimens of the youngest known baby, a rare juvenile, and a remarkably complete recently-discovered young adult (Thomas the T. rex), will be one of the highlights of the new hall. Other standout specimens in the exhibition include an imposing new Triceratops; a Stegosaurus, topped by kite-shaped armor plates; the predator Allosaurus; a 68-foot long-necked Mamenchisaurus; and giant marine reptiles that swam the oceans covering what is today California. Two-thirds of the full-body specimens have never been displayed before. Those specimens that were previously seen have all been re-articulated into more dynamic poses.

[pullquote_left]”Where else sparks the imagination of young and old, takes us back in time millions of years, making the events of the past and discoveries of the present so vividly alive?”[/pullquote_left]

The Dinosaur Hall will rival the world’s leading dinosaur experiences for the sheer volume of individual fossils displayed; the size and extraordinariness of the major mounts, including the world’s only Tyrannosaurus rex growth series; and the transparent treatment of the science that surrounds these creatures — not as static, definitive knowledge but as a vibrant, ongoing investigation of mysteries solved and still unsolved.

The Dinosaur Hall is the latest component of NHM Next, a $135 million campaign that is currently transforming the Museum. Now at its midpoint, this unique public-private partnership has raised over $86 million — more than 60 percent of its goal. The Dinosaur Hall follows this summer’s critically-acclaimed, campaign-supported openings of Age of Mammals and the Haaga Family Rotunda. NHM will become an indoor/outdoor experience, with a new pedestrian bridge and car park in 2011; an exhibition about Los Angeles’ natural and cultural history and the Nature Lab opening in 2012; and in 2012 and 2013, 3.5 acres of urban nature experiences in greenspace reclaimed from parking lots and paved patios set to debut. 2013 will also see the debut of the Otis Booth Pavilion, a three-story, glass-encased entryway connecting the indoor and outdoor sections of the Museum, made possible by an unprecedented $13 million gift from The Otis Booth Foundation.

“I want to underscore the excitement that the County shares about this major exhibit and its potentially huge impact on visitors,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We are putting our efforts, our funding and significant investment and resources into supporting this institution in but it is also my hope that some young Angelenos, for whom the Natural History Museum become a favorite place to visit, will develop a life-long love of learning and science.”

About the Museum
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is located at 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90007, near downtown. It is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Museum was the first dedicated museum building in Los Angeles, opening its doors in 1913. It has amassed one of the world’s most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history — with more than 35 million objects, some as old as 4.5 billion years. The Natural History Family of Museums includes the NHM, the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits (Hancock Park/Mid-Wilshire), and the William S. Hart Museum (Newhall, California).

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas Announces Summer Literacy Programs in the Second District

Freedom Schools, an exciting six-week literacy and enrichment program for children ages five to 18 years old, returns to the Second District this summer.

The program, which begins this week, will host over 200 students. These scholars will attend summer school at one of four Second District sites: First Church of God in Inglewood; First New Christian Fellowship in South L.A.; Bethel A.M.E. Church in South L.A.; and Community Coalition at Foshay Learning Center in South L.A.

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.

Last summer, the Children Defense Fund Freedom School program served over 9,600 children in 84 cities and 29 states, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, worked with Edelman to introduce the program to the Second District last July.

The Freedom School curriculum includes reading, arts, crafts, dance, music, field trips, sports, and community service, all provided in a nurturing environment that fosters growth and development. 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.

Throughout the afternoon, students read from a selection of books chosen by a national committee based on the literary work of the country’s best writers and illustrators.

“This program uniquely integrates reading, learning, and civic engagement,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. ”These tools are essential to life and empowerment.”

The mission of Freedom Schools is to ensure every child regardless of race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or geographic origin has a healthy, fair, safe, and moral start to education, combing literacy, nutritious foods and a positive learning environment.

According to an evaluation conducted by Philliber Research Associates for the Kansas City Freedom School program, students not only improve their reading skills but gain a love for learning.

The program is rooted in the work of the Civil Rights movement, specifically the work of college-age youth during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. Freedom Schools apply an intergenerational approach in which college students are trained as “Servant Leader Interns” who work as reading tutors and role models, motivating children to develop positive attitudes about themselves and their abilities.

Press Release (PDF)

Innovative Second District Construction will House and Support Homeless Families, Mentally Ill, and Foster Youths


An innovative housing complex in the Second District will soon take on the challenge of providing a supportive home to some of society’s most vulnerable, including youths aging out of foster care, the mentally ill and formerly homeless.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined the Koreatown Youth and Community Center and the Little Tokyo Service Center on June 29 to break ground for the Menlo Family Housing project on Menlo Avenue, near the intersection of Pico Boulevard and Vermont Avenue.

The 60-unit apartment complex will serve low-income residents, those with mental illnesses, transition aged foster youths and homeless families. On-site services will include case management, counseling, after-school programs and family literacy classes.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas noted the project is special for its combination of social services and affordable housing in a single location, which he identified early in his term as a top priority. The project, located in one of the hotspots of the 1992 civil unrest, also represents an inspired collaboration among organizations and elected officials with diverse constituencies.

“This project shows what happens when inspiration, cooperation and determination come together,” Ridley-Thomas said.

“Shortly after I was elected in 2008, I convened a transition team of knowledgeable community leaders. Among their key recommendations to me was to pursue novel approaches to combine the overlapping challenges of mental health care, transition-age youths and homelessness. This project makes that vision a reality,” Ridley-Thomas said.

Along with Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Congressman Xavier Becerra and Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes were present to celebrate the start of construction.

Also present were Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health Director Marvin Southard and Sean Rogan, executive director of the County Community Development Commission/Housing Authority.