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Spring 2014 LA Term Internship Highlights: City Ordinances, Day Laborer Centers, and More

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Another semester of LA Term internships has come and gone. This semester has brought a range of enriching experiences that will live on in the minds and hopes of our students even as they leave LA Term. From working on campaigns to fighting for funding to working to build skills among community members, our Spring 2014 were trained and mentored by some of the best and brightest organizations and leaders Los Angeles has to offer. Read about some of the highlights below.

Passing of Zero Waste Ordinance

LA Termer, Melanie Kent, spent her semester interning with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) working on the Don’t Waste LA Campaign. A campaign that LA Termers have been helping out with for the past couple of years now, Kent was fortunate enough to experience a major accomplishment for the campaign with the passing of the Zero Waste Franchise Ordinance by the LA City Council. Under this policy, LA will divert 90% of its waste and increase safety standards for trash and sorting workers.

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Photo: Waste facility

Kent spent her semester reaching out to small businesses for the campaign and was able to attend the vote and signing of the ordinance at LA City Hall. She also was able to attend various press conferences and was able to visit a waste facility, in addition to the different tasks she was able to complete in support of the campaign.

Kent writes about the meeting at LA City Hall on the day of the vote and writes, “It was encouraging to see [the city council’s] support. ‘It’s not everyday,’ one council member said, ‘that you get to pass laws that will change the world.’ I feel so fortunate to be a part of a campaign that is doing just that.”

Struggle to Keep Day Laborer Centers Open

LA Termer, Albizael Del Valle, spent his semester working with the Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA) working with day laborer centers across LA and establishing ESL classes at the Cypress Community Job Center using a popular education model. Over the course of the semester, Del Valle was able to hear the stories of the jornaleros and was able to participate in important action to keep the day laborer centers open after their funding had been cut off by the City of LA. Del Valle was able to celebrate with the jornaleros as their action resulted in extended funding from the city for an extra three months. Nevertheless, the struggle to keep the day laborer centers funded and open remains.








Photo: IDEPSCA members talking with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti

In addition, Del Valle participated in gathering the families together at Para Los Ninos Gratts Primary Center after the controversial dismissal of the school’s principal. Del Valle wrote about his experience in his article, “For the Children?”, on the Voz Mob website, which gathers voices and stories from immigrant and/or low-wage working communities. He continued to work with the community over the course of the semester in their fight to have their voices heard by the school’s Board of Directors.

Del Valle was deeply appreciative for the mentoring he received from his internship supervisor, Mariella Saba, this semester and writes, “She is incredible. I definitely recommend Mariella as a supervisor because she has a strong sense on how to challenge students…Mariella also cares about students as people and really goes out of her way to help them wherever they stand on their journey.”

Story Summit in the LA Times

LA Termers, Audrey Lazzeri and Rachel Pobre spent their semester working with LA Commons in Leimert Park. Lazzeri and Pobre helped plan and organize three major events over the course of the semester with LA Commons: Cooking with Gaby at the Expo Center, Building South LA Mural Opening, and the MacArthur Park Story Summit. The last event was featured in an LA Times article and was the big event that culminated the two LA Termers semesters with LA Commons. The event gathered youth and other community members to MacArthur Park to gather and share stories for a future art project that will be installed in the park.

Lazzeri shared about her semester and writes, “As the great Paul Simon once wrote, ‘The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls’, and I have carried this thought with me every step of the journey in Los Angeles. Each and every individual you encounter has a story to tell. All you must do is lend your ear to listen of their tale and learn that every person is tragically stunning in their own manner.”

A Great Semester of Learning

These three stories only highlight some of the many valuable learning experiences our students were able to participate in as they witnessed and helped communities come together for positive change and transformation. LA Termers, Alicia Davalos and Lauren Brooks, both worked with students in LAUSD using community gardens to help bring greater awareness to food justice issues and healthy living at their respective internships, American Friends Service Committee – Los Angeles and the Garden School Foundation. Andi-Lauren Rojas spent the semester meeting with people looking for employment opportunities in South LA with LIFT-LA in the Magnolia Place Family Center. And Dalia Velasco interned with the community organizers at Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) learning about tenant rights and the efforts to fight displacement in South LA.

Sharing these experiences with each other in class, students were able to get a well-rounded perspective on what community change looks like and understand what sort of commitment, flexibility, and hard work is required to build strong communities around LA.

We at LA Term are very proud of this graduating cohort and are always grateful to the internship organizations that allow our students to walk with them and learn from them. We look forward to the ways our LA Term alums will become part of positive community change in the future. Have a great summer, all!








Photo: Spring 2014 LA Term Cohort

Some closing reflections from our students:

  • “The small differences we can make are huge when we stand together.” – Dalia Velasco
  • “If we actually love something then we can actually fight for it and things will happen.” – Albizael Del Valle
  • “Each community fills what another may lack.” Rachel Pobre
  • “We don’t have to settle for bad standards.” – Lauren Brooks
  • “If you can change how the system works, you can change how people within the system live.” – Melanie Kent
  • “Organized groups really do make a difference.” – Alicia Davalos
  • “The community is a celebration of culture.” – Audrey Lazzeri
  • “Never forget where you came from.” – Andi-Lauren Rojas
  • “I will never forget the phrase that has been constantly used which is ‘hechale ganas’ which can be translated to ‘give it your effort.'” – Albizael Del Valle



Internships, Transformation, and Life in a Community Garden in South LA

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Spring semester is upon us and we have a new cohort in LA Term. Their new beginning reminds me of the previous group and the great experiences and learning the cohort was able to integrate into their semesters.

I am continuously grateful for our amazing community partners and the creative and meaningful projects our interns are able to contribute to. Here is one example of what two of our student interns, Austin and Emma, were able to work on during the semester. It is a video capturing the youth involved with AFSC’s Peace program (Roots for Peace) and their community garden. It’s just another example of what individuals coming together in community can accomplish as this brown lot is transformed into a vibrant, fruitful garden. Watch as the youth themselves explain the process of transformation that took place both in themselves and this space now bringing forth life.

“…I never thought I’d hear an American president say these things…”

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As an African-American man, I never thought I’d hear an American president say these things.

This was a tweet from Jamil Smith, a producer for MSNBC.  The sentiment was retweeted 96 times one hour after President Obama gave a surprise statement on the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman verdict.  Indeed, a President who has often been criticized for keeping a tight lip on matters of race gave a statement last Friday on his reflections of the verdict and its aftermath.  President Obama seemed to be trying to give the majority population context for the response of the African American community to the verdict.

Here are some notable quotes from the statement (read full transcript here) that gives us much to chew on and continue the conversation.  I’m looking forward to engaging our LA Term students more around these issues this fall as they spend the semester living in the neighborhoods of LA.

  • “But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling. You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African- American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African- American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that — that doesn’t go away.There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.And you know, I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.We understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.

    And so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of African-American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African-American boys are more violent — using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.”

  • On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these “stand your ground” laws, I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened?And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.”

Some additional reading on the President’s speech last Friday:


21 years later…

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Every semester, I begin my course on Community Development in LA Term with a discussion on the 1992 Civil Unrest/Riots.  Given that most students are not yet familiar with the context and climate of LA at that point, inevitably one of the most common questions I get as students begin to grasp the deep injustices present in the city is, “Have things changed since then?”

More than 20 years later, with a couple of days for the Martin/Zimmerman trial verdict to sink in, it really doesn’t feel like it has.  In fact, I remember when I was interviewing folks in South LA for a project with USC’s CRCC asking a similar question, “What has changed since 1992?”  It was not uncommon for people to respond, “Not much.”

Of course it depends on who you ask and what you mean by change.  I am the first to argue that indeed there has been change for the positive in the communities of LA since 1992, mostly through the grassroots efforts of community members/organizations/coalitions.  But has the system changed, are the lives of the youth in our cities vastly improved, and is there a greater solidarity and empathy for the marginalized and oppressed in our communities?  The verdict seems to demonstrate that in many communities, the privileged still get to make false assumptions about people that are different from them (i.e. profile) and somehow have their voice win out and be justified (i.e. face no just punishment).

The vastly different reactions people have to the verdict, the vastly different meanings the trial has had to different communities, and the fact that in the end it was the law (Stand Your Ground) that actually protected and empowered the armed man with an agenda instead of the victim buying some Skittles screams that we have much, much further to go (Note: And still this law doesn’t seem to apply to all people – Black Woman Gets 20 yrs for Firing Warning Shots Against Abusive Husband).  Sometimes realizing how far we have to go is disheartening, these days its infuriating/depressing/(fill in the blank).

But we hope that in the depths of our anger and sorrow, we will find a way for it to be motivating…to continue to fight on even when the odds/history/laws are against you.  Look around our communities and you will see the encouragement/examples/hope that we need to keep fighting the good fight – amazing people with incredible hearts and courage to keep at it and inspire us another day.

So here’s to all those community leaders, members, and organizations working everyday in our cities fighting for justice and opportunity for all.  The odds may be against us but may we keep the faith that tomorrow will bring resurrection in every community.

** If you have 45 min to spare, here’s a documentary a friend posted of young men sharing their stories and experiences.  It’s called AFTER TRAYVON: Black Boys Speak **

LA Term’s New 2 Year Internship Program Begins This Fall

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After a brief hiatus (one maternity leave and one paternity leave), the LA Term Internship Program is continuing the preparation to begin its new 2 year internship program this fall.  Our partner organizations have now been notified concerning the status of their applications.  Partner organizations with guaranteed status will now be given a student intern for the next four semesters through our LA Term Internship Program.  You can read more about the new changes on the LA Term website here.

+ POOL – “Olympians don’t train alone, so you don’t build pools alone.”

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I recently backed one of the largest civic projects on Kickstarter today.  It’s a floating pool that allows New Yorkers to swim in the river and is operated by a giant filter.  I learned about it through a friend who works for one of the companies building the project.  And even though I don’t live in NYC, I love the idea of allowing New Yorkers to swim in the river to promote more ownership of it.  Great ideas to promote civic life in the cities across the world is something to be celebrated indeed.  Check it out.


LA Term 2 Year Internship Program Applications Are In

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APU’s LA Term‘s Internship Program has introduced our new 2 year program  (Sept 2013 to May 2015) designed primarily to facilitate planning for our partner internship organizations to best utilize our student interns to contribute to their organization’s capacity.  In addition, we hope that the new application process will help improve the quality of student internships in our LA Term program.

The application deadline for our new 2 year program was February 15th and we have received lots of good applications from quality partner organizations.  We’re looking forward to reviewing the internship proposals we have received and hope to respond with feedback to our partner organizations in late March.

We appreciate all the hard work that our partners have invested in our students and consider our student internships as one of the strongest components of our LA Term program.  For a complete list of all partner organizations, visit:  For more information about our program, contact me here.