By Shirley Hawkins
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Community residents, civic leaders and stakeholders were on hand Oct. 21 to break ground on the Vermont Manchester Transit Priority Project that will be the new home of the SEED School of Los Angeles County, the state’s first college-preparatory boarding school in South Los Angeles.
On hand to celebrate the groundbreaking were county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, City Councilman Marqueece Harris Dawson, SEED Foundation CEO Lesley Poole, SEED LA co-founder Anita Landecker and Phillip A. Washington, CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
During the ceremony, a special thank you was imparted to the school’s cornerstone partners, Natasha and Brandon Berk.
The school, in partnership with Los Angeles County and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will be erected on a 147,000-square-foot two-block long vacant lot that was purchased through eminent domain and is located at the corner of Manchester Boulevard and Vermont Avenue. The lot had been vacant since the 1992 civil unrest.
The inaugural class of SEED LA students will arrive in August 2022 and the school’s focus will center on helping the most at-risk students prepare for college and beyond.
“These kids will be from the foster care community and they will be one of our priorities,” Washington said. “Kids whose parents have been in the justice system, kids that otherwise have been in trouble.”
SEED LA will serve 400 students in grades 9-12 that will be selected through an admissions lottery.
The school will feature 20 classrooms, 170 dorm rooms, 20 staff apartments, an art studio, science labs, a maker space lab, conference rooms, a gymnasium, science labs, a dining hall, an outdoor recreation space, courtyards and a rooftop garden.
The second phase of construction will include 180 affordable apartments, a Job and Innovation Center and retail stores.
The Job Innovation Center will offer training for youth and community residents interested in careers in the transportation industry.
“Our region’s transit system is undergoing a once-in-a-generation transformation presenting an immense opportunity for Angelenos to take part in building a more connected, more sustainable, more prosperous future,” said Los Angeles Mayor and MTA Board Chair Eric Garcetti.
“With Measure M, the Los Angeles area will see hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the decades ahead, and the SEED School will connect students to these possibilities and place them on a path to successful, long-lasting careers in the transportation industry.’
Landecker pointed out that the parents and students will receive 120-hour, five days a week assistance in a stable, safe environment to help their children succeed academically.
“I just see that when you have wraparound services and support in a way that meet the family where they’re at and what they need, not what we envision people need, but where they need support, it can make a huge, huge difference,” she said.
“This community has waited too long for meaningful change,” said Ridley-Thomas, who added that the establishment of the school will generate a renaissance of growth in the neighborhood. “Real change is finally here, with SEED LA to be followed by new homes, shops, a transit hub and job training opportunities. An empty lot that once represented chronic disinvestment is about to be transformed into a landmark of educational opportunity, economic development and hope.”
Pausing, Ridley-Thomas added: “Celebrate the fact that we are here to celebrate more change. And that’s certainly been the case for this particular corner of South Los Angeles for three decades. This lot has come to symbolize lack of progress and opportunity that far too many communities of color have been relegated to and had to contend with. Thank God we never gave up. We kept pushing. We kept dreaming. We kept climbing and here we are today.”
Councilman Harris-Dawson noted that a first-class education is invaluable and puts young people on a path to successful futures.
“The SEED school will ensure that students will benefit from a 24-hour learning environment and have access to it without needing to leave the South LA community,” he said.
“We celebrate the SEED School,” Ridley-Thomas said. “We celebrate education. It signifies that we keep pushing, we lean in, we double down. We turn this into an asset leveraged for the benefit of the community and it will be a tremendous asset.”
Pastor Anthony Williams of the 88th Street Temple Church in God in Christ, whose church is located near the school site, said, “If we can combine [the] education, opportunity and preparation with the young people’s ingenuity, creativity, talent and strength, I think that’s a recipe for success. And I believe if this neighborhood gets an opportunity for better, it’s ready for better.”
Poole delivered two inspirational quotes on the podium, first quoting Ridley-Thomas; “Never doubt that a small group of individuals can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
She followed Ridley-Thomas’ quote with another by the late South L.A. rapper Nipsey Hussle: ‘You’ve got to have faith in what you’re doing and not take ‘no’ for an answer.’”
“That, my friends, is how you plant a seed,” Poole said.
Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.