Two new high schools have opened their doors to freshman classes, making good on a plan announced in 2012 by the USC Rossier School of Education to establish five high schools.
USC Brío College Prep and USC Esperanza College Prep are the fourth and fifth schools in the USC-affiliated Ednovate charter network. The goal: that every student would graduate and be assured of an opportunity to attend college.
USC Brío, in L.A.’s Westlake neighborhood, and USC Esperanza, in East Los Angeles, join USC College Prep, Santa Ana Campus, which opened last summer; USC East College Prep in L.A.’s Lincoln Heights neighborhood, which opened the year before that; and downtown L.A.’s USC Hybrid High College Prep, the flagship school that opened in 2012 and has successfully graduated 100 percent of its first two senior classes, with the students gaining admittance to at least one four-year college.
The new schools will employ the model of learning used at the other Ednovate schools: personalized learning, college-going culture and innovative technology. Each school will add one new grade of students per year, reaching full capacity in 2020.
“With the establishment of our fourth and fifth schools, we have reached a key milestone in our partnership with Ednovate,” USC Rossier Dean Karen Symms Gallagher said. “But more importantly, as our schools begin reaching full enrollment, we will now be bringing positive multigenerational change to thousands of students and their families throughout Southern California.”
Born for this
For USC Esperanza principal Rosa Alanis, the chance to lead her school was a literal homecoming to East Los Angeles, as the school moved into a building that used to be Santa Martha Hospital — the same hospital Alanis where was born.
“I believe and have learned that the best way to combat the inequities that exist for low-income students is by building schools armed with passionate, mission-driven educators, high expectations and love,” Alanis said. “I’m thrilled to build a school just like this in the neighborhood I was born in.”
Jeannie Cho, principal of USC Brío and a daughter of Korean immigrants, sees the opportunity to shape a kinder, more inclusive world.
We might be young as an organization, but we are mighty.
“Now that school has started, we’re challenging students to think critically about how their everyday language affects the safety of spaces, how empathy goes a long way and how race, gender, education and other things contribute to how society operates,” Cho said.
While carving out unique identities for their respective schools, Alanis and Cho have also found themselves able to draw on the expertise of the other principals in the Ednovate network. They meet as a formal group every two weeks, but talk, text and email on a daily basis.
“We ask each other questions, share best practices, laugh, cry and support each other at the most random times of the day,” Alanis said. “We might be young as an organization, but we are mighty.”
Aware of the bumps that can come with a new school opening, the principals of USC Brío and USC Esperanza are taking problems in stride.
“There are always unexpected things that happen that are sometimes out of our control,” Cho said. “Our students have very intense things going on at home. There’s fear and stress over immigration status, sick family members and past traumas. I’ve learned to just be ready to be present during the school day instead of behind a computer screen.”
Cho has also worked to introduce healthy conflict into the faculty, delegating decision-making to her teachers as often as possible to help them feel empowered.
At USC Esperanza — the Spanish word for “hope” (“brio” is Italian for “vivacity”) — Alanis said it’s been hard, as expected, but “there is nothing more rewarding than to see your work come to fruition,” and perhaps no more so than at fall orientation, where students came in with their parents, the school’s name emblazoned on the school uniforms.
“For immigrant and first-generation families, children are the hope for their families,” Alanis said. “My parents reminded me of that every single day. I felt joy to watch parents bring their kids to me, with all the hope and trust in the world for a college-prep education.”