The community of Boyle Heights has been selected for a federal grant that could lead to $1 million or more to improve education in the area by focusing intensely on children’s needs from the time they are born until they graduate from high school. The idea, tried most famously in New York City’s Harlem Children’s Zone, is to give kids all the support they need – inside and outside of school – to succeed academically.
Growing up in Boyle Heights, Fernando Almanzar dabbled in tagging and considered joining a crew or a gang before turning away from that lifestyle. Today he is an intern at the Boyle Heights Technology Youth Center, where he is learning the skill of video production. He is a success story for the Los Angeles Youth Opportunity Movement, which offers grant-funded academic programs and job training for residents age 14 to 21 who meet poverty guidelines and are authorized to work.
Boyle Heights has weathered its share of threats over the years, from proposed prisons and hazardous waste plants to criminal gangs. Now residents of the historic East LA neighborhood are feeling the pressure of city-backed development that is displacing low-income housing. Community groups are using a lull in construction caused by the down economy to organize so that residents have a voice when the city pushes again to gentrify the community.