Micro-financing sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo have been used to fund a wide range of projects from independently developed video games to breast implants. But in what must be a first, two students from the University of Southern California are using IndieGoGo.com to raise money to keep a school – the Los Angeles Community High School – operating during the 2012-13 school year.
The initial fundraising goal is $10,000, which would keep the doors of the school open for its 35 students. The school, which began operating in 1995, was founded by Kimi Lent — a former kindergarten teacher and an expert on Los Angeles-area gangs. It is a private, credentialed alternative school that caters primarily to the “lost souls” of Los Angeles County – students who’ve been expelled, kicked out, or who have dropped out of traditional high schools and have nowhere else to go.
According to the campaign’s description, Lent and Smith take a holistic approach to education – focusing not just on academics, but also social, moral and physical health. They write letters to courts on behalf of their students, and work directly with probation officers in an effort to assist with rehabilitation.
Eric Johnson and Hunter Kubryk, who brainstormed the fund-raising appeal, explained that as students at the nearby University of Southern California, they felt their peers didn’t engage very often with the community outside the boundaries of their campus. To change that — in addition to designing the IndieGoGo page — Johnson and Kubryk put together a video about the impact the small school makes on the students who pass through its halls.
According to the video, 38.4 percent of students did not graduate high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2012. By comparison, L.A. Community Highboasts a 93 percent graduation rate, with nearly all of these students being first-generation high school graduates. Of its graduates who were once involved in the criminal justice system, 79 percent are now employed, in job training or attending college. To date, the alternative school has graduated 641 teens and adults with high school diplomas.
The Los Angeles Community School partners with the Los Angeles Computer Science Academy and is registered with the State of California’s Board of Education. It is also a member of the Community Restoration Services, a non-profit organization that focuses on urban renewal. After the conclusion of the last academic year, school administrators found that they did not have enough money to continue operating and resolved to close the school after their fundraising attempts failed. The IndieGoGo campaign must raise at least $10,000 by August 17th to allow the school to make preparations in anticipation of the opening day on September 4th.