LOS ANGELES - One public charter school in South Los Angeles prioritizes basic needs over academics.
Crete Academy serves grades TK-sixth. Thirty percent of the 176 students at the school are homeless.
Kids like Jently Russell are used to moving from house to house.
“I go to my shelter, then grandma's. Grandma, shelter, grandma, shelter, yea,” said Jently.
School founder and Principal Hattie Mitchell says a large portion of the school’s $1.8 million annual budget is spent on supplying each kid with stuff like hygiene products and backpacks.
“The reality is, when you look at kids with trauma, when you look at kids who are impoverished, who don’t have a home or who don’t have food, who have anxiety, they can’t learn to their full potential unless those needs are met,” Mitchell said. “So our focus and our program is built around those students, because those are the students who slip through the cracks."
Getting to school is hard for many students, so two school vans pick up and drop off almost 70 students from local shelters, motels, and homes.
The school cafeteria serves more than lunch. Students are fed breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.
Mitchell’s vision for the school came about 15 years ago as a college student volunteering at Union Rescue Mission in downtown. She saw a little girl who was playing at the shelter and wondered about her future.
“I thought this little girl, while she may want to be a doctor, or a teacher or anything, she really doesn’t have a chance. If she makes it she’s one in a million. And I knew if I saw one there were more,” Mitchell said.
“I knew if I saw one there were more and the fact that I saw one child crawling on the sidewalk there was a problem. There was a problem, a systematic problem with what we weren’t doing for our kids and for me the answer was better education. If nothing else changed in her life but she got an education, she could have a chance to be someone someday. And I wanted to make sure kids like her had that chance,” said Mitchell.
Now, thanks to Mitchell, more kids like that girl have a chance. Jently says she likes this school more than the two others she’s been to.
“Because they are here to take care of me and after me and they teach me and I just love it here,” she said.