Purposefully creating California’s first public boarding school on a former shopping plaza site will transform a vacant lot, bringing opportunity to at-risk youth and creating a brighter future for a historically marginalized Los Angeles community.
The 1992 Los Angeles uprising, which began after a jury acquitted police officers in the brutal beating of Rodney King, resulted in a shopping plaza being burned to the ground at Vermont and Manchester Avenues in south Los Angeles.
Now, after standing vacant for 30 years, it is being transformed into the home of the SEED School of Los Angeles County (SEED LA), a college-preparatory, public boarding school focusing on career readiness for students to prepare them for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) sectors, as well as transportation and infrastructure which are in demand in the area. This coming semester, the school will open its doors for the first time to welcome the founding cohort of SEED LA students.
Built through a public-private partnership, the 4.2-acre lot now represents a new and positive era for children in the neighborhood who can benefit from improved access and equity to advanced schooling opportunities. It also represents a source of pride and renewed hope for a man that worked with youth in that same neighborhood through programs offered by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), including multiple years of the NSBE Camping Conference where local children were transported into nearby mountains for a weekend of exposure and education on what it takes to become an engineer and how to prepare for this career path.
Along with many others in NSBE, Jacobs’ Vice President Jeffery Dingle worked throughout this neighborhood in the late 1980s and early 1990s, tutoring and mentoring Black students while finishing his civil engineering studies, beginning his career with the California Department of Transportation, and designing foundations for bridges being constructed along the I-110 Harbor Freeway, just east of SEED LA’s location.
Jeffery’s barber shop of choice was in that mall that burned during the uprising. This is the neighborhood where Jeffery chose to begin a life of “lifting while climbing” as he worked with young men and women that looked like him and had similar life experiences but didn’t have access to the same opportunities that he had.
“SEED LA is a step change in South LA’s development of untapped talent with diverse perspectives that will not only enhance our workforce but more importantly change a legacy of poverty within families. ”
“We knew we needed to be involved in this tremendous success story in the making,” says Ron Williams. “Helping to build a boarding school on this site is an opportunity for us to support young people disadvantaged by low income, homelessness and/or the welfare system, and helping create a brighter future for the entire community.”
Providing base funding to help SEED LA grow and flourish
The $1 million grant to SEED LA was one of the first to be approved under Jacobs’ 2020 Action Plan for Advancing Justice & Equality.
At the time, Jeffery had recently become Jacobs’ first Vice President of TogetherBeyond℠ when Vice President and Account Manager Judy Johnson and Senior Vice President of P&PS Americas Ron Williams approached him with the idea of nominating SEED LA for an Action Plan Grant.
Knowing the neighborhood and history, Jeffery gladly accepted their invitation to push the $1 million grant to Jacobs’ Board of Directors for approval. Jacobs’ investment in SEED LA realizes the dreams of Jeffery and many others who have served the community for decades.
The project also includes a major grocery store, additional retail, and affordable housing, all of which should help stimulate economic activity as part of LA Metro’s Vermont Transit Corridor Project.
The SEED Foundation CEO Lesley Poole is appreciative of Jacobs’ support and can’t wait to welcome students to the school in September.
“SEED LA is about partnership — it’s about people coming together and, at the core, I think it’s about the leaders in Los Angeles believing in children and wanting to partner with families. We’re giving students access to a five-day a week, 120-hour, public boarding school, where they’ll have the gift of time and opportunity, says Poole. To the community I say — we see and believe in your young person so deeply that we’re not only going to partner with you to get your young person into college but through college. ”
A school year like no other
When it opens in Fall 2022, we suspect parents will be as excited as the students that SEED-LA can prepare their children for careers in the transportation, infrastructure, and STEM industries with courses, hands-on learning, mentoring, internships, and more. Jubria Lewis, founding head of school says, “We’re going to be accepting, this first year, 125 incoming ninth graders and building students every year, so we’re excited about that.”
Ultimately serving 400 students each year in Grades 9 to 12, the 24-hour learning environment will aim to help students reach their full potential.
“We have seven Student Life counselors that will be on campus for just ninth grade”, shares Lewis. “We will have residential advisors on staff. We will have college counselors, a social worker, and a night nurse on staff. There's a level of socio-emotional care that's being built into the model that we traditionally can never offer.”
SEED LA is part of something bigger — The SEED Foundation, whose mission is to help underserved students realize their potential and fulfill their dreams of college graduation through a unique, college-prep public boarding school model. SEED matters because for children growing up in a low-income household, receiving an excellent education is a series of insurmountable challenges.
Filling an important demand for infrastructure professionals
“With an annual infrastructure construction spend between $12B and $20B during the next 10 years and a projected regional labor shortage, it’s easy to see how this investment in the SEED School of LA County will help build a pipeline of professionals needed to meet the demand,” explains Williams.
“SEED LA will allow students to gain firsthand experience on infrastructure projects improving their lives, their communities, and producing the next generation of professionals,” he concluded.
As part of this overall economic renewal project, there will be 180 units of affordable housing, community-serving retail, a transportation-focused job training center, and a mobility hub. Jacobs is engaged in the planning of the station and transportation hub.
of the resident population is Black
of residents 25 and older don’t have a high school diploma
of residents 25 and older have a 4-year degree
of the homeless population in South Los Angeles are under 18
foster youth live in group homes
ranked percentile of most disadvantaged and low-income communities
CalEnviroScreen and The SEED Foundation
A cornerstone for quality educational opportunities and economic renewal
As the centerpiece of LA Metro’s larger Workforce Development Initiative (WIN-LA), establishing the SEED LA school on this neglected lot in south LA will help prepare young people for exciting careers in transportation and other STEM sectors.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell is excited about the future. “SEED LA isn’t just a school, it’s the manifestation of a shared commitment to investing in our community and preparing our young people for careers in STEM and transportation that will shape the future of LA County,” she says. “We’re committed to making sure SEED LA has the necessary financial resources to build this important infrastructure.”
At Jacobs, we’re thrilled to play a small part in providing access to advanced education, creating a more equitable future for students while benefiting the broader community. Watch the video to learn more about the SEED school movement and the new SEED LA School opening this September.
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