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Agents of Change on the Banks of the Los Angeles River

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The Sotomayor Learning Academies, home of the L.A. River School, welcomes the neighborhood
The Sotomayor Learning Academies, home of the L.A. River School, welcomes the neighborhood.

The Los Angeles River School fittingly sits just off the Los Angeles River. Its mission and curriculum, like its name, reflect the waterway in deep and fundamental ways, from the egret on their school uniform, to their goal of graduating young adults ready to be stewards of ecologically sustainable and socially just communities. It's a unique example of an urban school closely linked to the land and the resources of its neighborhood.

This identification fosters a special connection between the students and the river. It energizes the work done by the students in their classes, and is evident in the large number of L.A. River School students that participate in various activities along the river, including the Annual FOLAR Great Clean-Up.

This commitment to the local environment and emphasis on civic engagement present a wonderful opportunity for Departures Youth Voices to continue our partnership with the L.A. River School for our latest installment. We have always encouraged youth participants to engage in community issues, meet and work with community leaders, and explore their neighborhoods as storytellers and cartographers. Our goal now is to provide a platform (both figuratively and literally) for students to become agents of change and leaders in their communities, as the process of re-imagining the L.A. River and its surroundings continues and gains momentum.

L.A. River School students participating in the 2013 Great L.A. River Cleanup
L.A. River School students participating in the 2013 Great L.A. River Cleanup.
Student begins jotting ideas down in her Youth Voices Notebook
Student begins jotting ideas down in her Youth Voices Notebook.

Most of the participating students live in the Northeast L.A. neighborhoods where the river travels through: Atwater Village, Elysian Valley, Cypress Park, Glassell Park, and Lincoln Heights, as well as Highland Park and Eagle Rock. They come with different experiences and hopes for the river, which they will have the opportunity to explore and share. The revised Youth Voices Curriculum supports a culture of participation, with a structure in which students can identify a cause or issue in their community, conduct research, outreach, investigation, and advocacy, utilizing multimedia tools and resources.

It's an exciting time for Departures Youth Voices, as the curriculum evolves and becomes a vehicle for young people to break down the fourth wall of the classroom and take a critical look at their community, use and develop new skills, and became civically engaged. The revised curriculum will be available to view and download on our website in late November.

We are also initiating a concurrent Youth Voices installment at Mountain View High School in El Monte, that will examine the history and relationship of the other great river that defines our basin, the San Gabriel. Participating students will have the opportunity to highlight the river's historical importance to the region, and the current efforts to bring it back to life and re-establish it as a community asset.

Stay tuned for more.

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