The Making of a Trauma-Informed School
Posted on December 19, 2013
Claudia Rojas (bio) relates how the Community Health Advocates School arose from a need in the community.
We are the Community Health Advocates School, and we were created based on the need from the community. So what happened is when this school was being built, the Los Angeles Unified School District made it available so that groups of teachers or community members or business owners, pretty much any group of people that wanted to get together could write a proposal to open this campus, which is Augustus F. Hawkins. During that time there were actually two teachers who are currently still on our staff who worked with a larger design team to open the entire campus.
So one of the schools that was born out of that was the Community Health Advocates School. So what they began to find as they surveyed the community here in South Central Los Angeles that there was a lot of trauma that the community had experienced historically and that there was a great need for healing. So as they continued to talk to the families and young people and nonprofit organizations, churches that have had an impact in the community, they began to realize that there was a definite need to not only make young people aware of the historical issues that have plagued the community, but also to empower them so that they could then become the future social workers, the future teachers, the future counselors, therapists for this community. That's how the Community Health Advocates School began, out of that sort of need that was expressed from the community.
We are part of what's called a "zone of choice," in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and in our zone of choice there are three schools, which are the three existing schools here at Augustus F. Hawkins. So they are able to self-select based on their interests and also we do recruitment. So we go to our local feeder middle school, which is just a couple of blocks down the street and it's John Muir Middle School. We present to the eighth graders who are then our incoming ninth graders, and it's a mainly student-centered presentation where students go and show them what we're doing at Hawkins. Then in particular what each MAHS (Manual Arts High School) school is focused on.
Then the eighth graders, with the help of their guidance counselor and their parents of course, they rank the schools, one, two, three, and then the district does their best to give them their first choice.
Then we also have what we call "open enrollment," so students who are not necessarily in our geographic area are able to elect to come here if they choose to, and then there's also what are called "permits." So if a student really wants to come here, maybe they're experiencing some sort of problems at their own home school, they can also request permission to be accepted here. So that's pretty much how we get our student population.