Eduardo Ibarra walked through the L.A. neighborhood he grew up in, and something didn’t quite feel right.
The lack of noise in Ramona Gardens was unusual. There were no kids playing on the playgrounds. No snippets of conversation floated between neighbors sitting on their stoops. Only an eerie silence hung in the air of the neighborhood, a testament to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The community is home to many longtime residents who have weathered many storms in the history of the beloved housing project. The same folks who looked out for Ibarra as he was growing up now look to him for care.
“We have a lot of seniors here that are high risk,” said Ibarra, 26. “The goal is to keep them safe and provide food for them and other essentials.
“They are scared. These are strong people but, right now, they are scared.”
Growing up next to the USC Health Sciences Campus, Ibarra’s dream was to find a way into USC. The opportunities growing up in the neighborhood were few and far between.
“USC meant a lot,” Ibarra said. “Ever since elementary school, it was my dream school.”
USC project specialist gives back to community during COVID-19
Ibarra got his opportunity through the Hire LA’s Youth Summer Employment Program, an initiative between USC and the city of Los Angeles. The program — which provides local youth an opportunity to get real-world, professional experience — opened the door.
“I was at Legacy LA,” a community based non-profit organization focused on youth development, Ibarra said. “I just finished school, so I was interested in getting a summer job.“
The Hire LA’s Youth program connected him with Keck Medicine of USC. “I worked hard, and a full-time opportunity became available,” he said. Ibarra jumped at the opportunity, and in January became a project specialist in the Keck School of Medicine’s Department of Preventive Medicine.
Ibarra understands that he is an example for many that live in Ramona Gardens, a place he still calls home. The COVID-19 pandemic has given Ibarra the opportunity to give back to the community. He is volunteering his time to deliver meals to those that are at high risk and the most vulnerable in his neighborhood.
“It feels great working here [at USC]. I feel like I’m an example of what opportunities are available,” he said. “This is my way of giving back.
“Being from the community, a lot of people know me and I’m grateful to be in a position to help through this tough time.”