September 05, 2013
City News Service
INSPIRE Research Academy graduated its first senior class on Friday, August 23. Twenty-eight students graduated at the Tom Bradley Room in City Hall – special speakers included the executive director of INSPIRE Research Academy, Dr. Alejandro Covarrubias, director of the Southeast YouthSource Center, Martín Flores, and Councilman Joe Buscaino who represents district fifteen, which includes Watts.
Watts based, the Institute of Service-learning, Power, & Intersectional Research (INSPIRE) is a non-profit that works to create equitable and reciprocal relationships between local universities and community-based organizations for the purpose of carrying-out community-centered, participatory action research, meaningful service-learning projects, and research-based educational programming at the IRA, according to its founders. The Southeast YouthSource Center hosts various club meetings, community organizations and is home to the IRA. The Southeast YouthSource Center is administered by the Economic Work and Development Department of the City of Los Angeles. Amongst the many services provided by the center, Watts youth benefit from GED classes, employment readiness workshops, resume workshops, mentoring, and financial literacy classes.
“Students attending INSPIRE have experienced difficulty within the traditional education system and at one point were pushed out from their home school,” said an INSPIRE spokes person.
“INSPIRE has reengaged these youth in innovative educational activities that have created opportunities to succeed. It provides out-of-school young people the opportunity to earn their high school diploma while committing to learn about and serve their community. A diverse group of Angelenos come together to this non-traditional school setting, where we provide culturally relevant curriculum, skilled educators, comprehensive support services, and opportunities to serve. One of the main goals is to get young people to engage in knowledge production. Communities like Watts are often spoken about, not spoken with. They are often investigated, but not frequently asked to conduct their own investigations. The Watts community is not voiceless, but instead the unheard.”
INSPIRE seeks to have youth carry out rigorous research in their communities and participate in dialogue about policies and practices that impact them. They also ask students to carry out service-learning projects that address issues in the community, and have community members work to create their own solutions. At YO Watts they have started an Urban Farm, with the councilman they have worked to conduct a needs assessments of Watt, with Lo Ryders they ride bikes in support of fitness and community building. These are only a sample of the work that youth do to change their lives while transforming their communities. The ages of the soon-to-be graduates span from seventeen to twenty-four.
The comment most commonly heard from many of the youth is, “I never imagined I would be graduating.” Graduate Idenis, one of the student speakers for the ceremony, arrived in the US from the Dominican Republic in 2012, and just one year later she is graduating from High School and moving on to college. The stories of INSPIRE students vary, but what they have in common is that all of the students have displayed extraordinary resilience and drive as they have worked towards this major milestone in their lives.