This post is brought to you by Chase — a strong supporter of TRANS4M Boyle Heights, a program that provides multiple social services that address Boyle Heights’ particular needs. Learn more here.
While some kids are at goofing off at camp or watching re-runs this summer, a group of teens in Los Angeles are reinventing their neighborhood with the help of iPads.
They’re taking part in a new Digital Storytelling class and the first assignment – run as a contest – is to see who comes up with the best ideas for transforming Boyle Heights. This East Los Angeles neighborhood, described by singer will.i.am who grew up there as a “wasteland” is also home to one of the youngest populations in the city.
Helping these 65 ninth-graders get a leg up on college is the mission for this new summer school, the first offering of the Trans4m Boyle Heights Initiative. The project is backed by a $7 million, three-year commitment from Chase and lead by will.i.am. His charity, i.am angel foundation, and College Track, co-founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, are teaming up for the project.
Cult of Mac checked back in with Enrique Legaspi, a history teacher at the Los Angeles Unified School District and co-site director at i.am College Track Boyle Heights.
“We had an excellent day showcasing the power of partnerships with CHASE volunteers,” he said. “We kicked-off the Digital Storytelling contest after brainstorming in small groups about the concept ‘TRANS4M Boyle Heights.’ It was an excellent sharing session with everyone to start building the digital stories.”
Legaspi, who has embraced tech as a teaching tool, becoming a YouTube Star Teacher and Google Certified Teacher, has launched himself whole-heartedly into this month long summer learning adventure, which also includes math and English skills.
He underlined, however, that the iPads and MacBook Airs and Canon cameras the kids are using for the storytelling course are more than just fun and games for the students, most of whom have smartphones but not personal computers. All tablets aren’t created equal, he says, noting that the 10 donated HP touchscreen tablets are collecting dust in his classroom because the vertical screens make them awkward to use.
“The Apple ecosystem makes it easy, but it’s more than just apptivities,” he said, noting that some apps like Songify and Fotopedia pique the interest of students. “We want them to understand that these are power tools not luxury pieces and that they can take them and make their dreams a reality.”
Apple’s role in the innovative project may have particular resonance for Laurene Powell Jobs. Powell Jobs co-founded College Track, one of the partners in TRANS4M Boyle Heights.
She became aware of the problems facing kids when Carlos Watson, a friend from graduate school, recruited her to act as a volunteer college counselor in 1995. While tutoring at an East Paolo Alto high school, she discovered that “most students who were hungry for information and eager to attend college had not taken the classes needed to qualify for admission to a California state university.”
So Powell Jobs and Watson designed College Track, a comprehensive after-school program to help meet those needs. College Track has also given a boost to kids in its centers in East Palo Alto, Oakland, San Francisco, New Orleans and Aurora, Colorado.