New Village Spirit Shines Through

This week at Monday Shout Outs, amidst recognition and celebration of many individual student successes, Kyle Denman (coordinator extraordinaire) shared this quote with the students. The words touch on the sense of safety and belonging the girls feel on the New Village campus. Yet these are extraordinary times right now. At the beginning of the school year, gathering for classes and assemblies via Zoom, we wondered: could this trust and connection endure? The answer is emphatically, Yes! As a board, we are always amazed by how Jenny and the staff nurture the school’s community spirit. Even students who just arrived this semester spontaneously share that they have never felt truly at home in a school until now. They feel the love.

There is a lot of talk of “equity” in education these days. Our students typically have not found success in traditional schools and they often live volatile lives. For us, achieving equity means each student receives an education that meets her needs. To provide this degree of individual attention, plus the needed social-emotional learning, we create advisory families. Advisors honor the students’ genuine interests and talents, guiding them to create individual projects connected to real world internships. At the end of each semester, students present individual exhibitions, focused on their semester-long project inquiries. An audience of teachers, peers, and community members listens and asks thoughtful questions. For many students, this is the first time their work and viewpoint have been respected and taken seriously. 

There are dozens of Alternative high schools in greater Los Angeles including Continuation schools. Most often these programs consist of packet work without the deeper learning or community connections necessary for post-high school success. We believe students with heightened life challenges deserve our best thinking, great internships and mentors, and ample resources. The young women at New Village get this – they feel the difference, they feel both challenged and supported, and they experience the love of their teachers and peers as they build the foundation for successful adult lives. Please see Crissel’s article on Learning Through Internships and Speed Networking with mentors.  

All this would not be possible without the support of the broader New Village community. Thank you for the part you play! Please visit our website and click on the documentary videos to hear our students in their own words.

Be Well and Stay Safe, and feel free to reach out to me at with any questions or comments.

It all began March 13, when we were ordered to close the doors of our school due to COVID-19. We educators were confounded and challenged, but we were determined to find a way to bring the best quality education we could to our students. Many refer to New Village as their “home away from home” and we were determined to continue to make them feel part of our school community.

Technology brings the classroom into homes, and we have supplied Chromebooks and hot spots as needed to increase access to the Internet and stable Zoom connection. Most importantly, we’ve maintained the individual human contact essential to our approach to education.

Despite the pandemic, racial injustice, and uncertainty about when we’ll be able to return to in-person instruction, I’m proud to say that New Village is functioning well, thanks to the strong relationships already formed in advisories between students and staff. Our advisories are essential in addressing the social-emotional needs of students, allowing them to engage with their peers and build connections and trust. Even our newly-enrolled students are happy to find themselves in tight-knit advisories; they feel loved and supported. At New Village, our programming is hands-on, individualized, and connected to community partnerships and collaborations. Enrollment continues to rise; we have 106 students and continue to get referrals from community partners, with new students arriving every month. New Village continues to be a safe haven for all students.

In many ways, this online method of education has provided additional flexibility for classroom work. We know when a student has to care for younger siblings who need help with their own distance learning or can’t go to day care. We can work with them to adjust hours accordingly. We also make monthly distribution of supplies and science kits, and check on laptops and hotspots. Internships in the outside world remain a major component of our Big Picture Learning practices, and thanks to technology, we can establish face-to-face mentoring and real-world learning.

In collaboration with our community partners, we distribute hundreds of meals daily to students and their families, many of whom face not only food insecurity, but also job loss, and lack of access to medical care.  For our students who have shown limited engagement during distance learning, I collaborate with Volunteers of America and GRYD to do home visits which allow me to assess the reasons why. Some of our students have enormous needs, and we work hard to address them because we know the worth and potential of our girls.    

Kudos and much gratitude to our faculty and staff. They are our backbone and remain as solid, caring, creative, and effective as always. This school year, we welcome Brenda Hernandez, Social Studies Teacher and Advisor; Katie McMahon, English and ELD Teacher; and Veronica Yanagisawa, School Psychologist.

New Village continues to be at the forefront of innovation. We are the only school selected to participate in a groundbreaking two-year research study led by the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools and the USC Brain and Creativity Institute. The study focuses on the role of enhanced mindfulness practices for educators in promoting self-direction among adolescent girls of color. Each of our teachers is paired with a coach to provide personalized and ongoing support. The goal is to build upon our integrated school wide meditation and advisory practices.

Though it now seems long ago, twenty-two students graduated in the 2019-2020 academic year. Seven continued onto four year universities (UC Merced, CSUN, CSULA, ASU local, and California Baptist University). One joined the military, one is taking care of her baby, and thirteen are continuing their education at community colleges. Congratulations!    

We are so grateful for your continued support – you are an essential member of our New Village community.

The start of the school year brings new opportunities for students, and this year it brought a number of new challenges – especially in terms of how we would sustain the programming that makes our school unique. Connection continues to be at the center of our work and we needed to figure out how we could continue connecting with students in the new virtual platform and connecting them to the work that speaks to their passions and interests. 

Virtual internships and mentoring are essential components of educational equity. They provide our students with opportunities to explore careers and build social capital necessary for success. In addition, they often provide job certification and career opportunities for students. Students learn important skills such as relationship building, communication, and how to use technology in this new era. This year, our internship partners include: For the Girls (Fashion Program), Heart of Los Angeles (STEAM Program), Homies Unidos, Bored of Boredom, the Koreatown Youth and Community Center, the RYSE Center, the Southern California Eye Institute, and Critical Mass Dance Company. 

Our students are immersed in amazing opportunities such as learning about computing and gaming, developing business pitches for a fashion store, analyzing the anatomical structure of the eye, learning the fundamentals of acrylic painting, and much more. We are incredibly grateful to those mentors who are committed to continuing this work in spite of the challenges, and in this way, giving our girls the opportunity to thrive.

COVID-19 could not stop the overwhelming success of our annual Speed Networking event this year. We had over 40 mentors in attendance from California, Ohio, Virginia, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, Oklahoma, New York, Texas, and New Mexico. We had professionals in different industries including business, education, marketing, law, gaming, finance, fashion, and the nonprofit sector. We kicked off our event by asking the question, “What do you look forward to in the year 2021?” Mentors and students shared that they looked forward to eating out, attending concerts, and seeing each other’s faces in person. We then assigned mentors and students to different breakout rooms to allow for deeper conversations. In these rooms, students were able to learn about different types of careers and practice their virtual networking skills. It was incredible to see and hear the conversations that were happening in each room as girls shared their aspirations for the future, and mentors listened attentively and offered advice. At the end of the event, the feedback that we got was that the event was not long enough which speaks to the power of the conversations that were held. We are in deep appreciation of all the mentors in attendance. Thank you for being part of our village! 

Crissel Rodriguez
Learning Through Internships and Outreach Coordinator 

When I arrived at New Village Girls Academy, my first thought was ‘what type of school did I agree to go to’?  I told myself that I would just stay a few months and then I would drop out and find a job. As the months went by, I was able to see the difference between New Village and my previous schools. I noticed that the teachers and staff really cared about the students and tried to help them in any way they were able to.

I am Jailene Reyes, the middle child of a Christian Honduran mother and a Christian Honduran father.

As a Christian family we had to attend church every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Being absent one day of church wasn't an option; my grandparents were the pastors of the church.

Everyone admired my family because they thought we were the perfect Christian family. Sadly, things didn't work out between my parents and their marriage ended in divorce. 

The biggest expectation my family had for me was to find a Christian guy, marry him and have a family, but this is something I could never do. Ever since I was child I was never attracted to boys. This was not acceptable to my family. 

Even though I see everyone now accepting me for who I am, I feel like the worst person in the world for rejecting the vision they had for me. I struggle to put my best self forward and not be held back by the shame their reaction brings to me. Through the years I have been learning to go beyond their expectations for me. New Village Girls Academy has helped me do so. 

I am the first in my family to graduate from college. I am now working as a resident counselor at St. Anne’s where I know my life’s experience will be of value to many of the young women there.

During her senior year at New Village, Jailene asked if I would be her mentor. Thus began a special relationship. During her first two years of college, I traveled to Dominguez Hills weekly and bi-weekly the final two years. E-mails or phone calls didn’t cut it. I needed to know what was really going on. My goal was just to be there for Jailene in every possible way. Thanks to her advisor at New Village, and despite strong pressure from her family to go to work fulltime to help support her family, Jailene understood the value of a college degree. She was determined to persist through four years and be the first in her family to earn a BA.

Over time, my relationship with Jailene allowed me to understand her challenging family dynamics and to support her by providing perspective and helping her reject the pressures from peers that might have completely derailed her education. I edited many of her papers, discussed curriculum and career goals, and met with her college advisors and professors. She has often expressed gratitude for our relationship, but I had the honor and trust of Jailene who fully shared her life with me – the good and the bad. I grew as much as she did. We are still in regular touch, and I imagine we always will be.

Many thanks to our contributors:

Jenny Quinones, Crissel Rodriguez, Kyle Denman, Jailene Reyes, Brenda Freiberg, Dan Posel, Laurie Owyang, and Jesus Roman (photography)

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147 N. Occidental Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026  |  213-385-4015

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