Angeline Aguirre thought she would attend Mendez High School, a school near her Boyle Heights Home. But last summer, the 14-year-old and her mother found out about USC East College Prep, a new charter school opening in Lincoln Heights that guarantees its students a graduation and entry into a four-year college.

Today, Aguirre is one of 100 ninth graders at the fledgling school, part of the future first graduating class of USC East College Prep.

USC East students read Orwell’s ‘1984’. Photo by Antonio Mejías-Rentas.

“I really think this school can get me where I want to be in the future,” said the youth, who plans to go to medical school and become a neurosurgeon.

Aguirre and the rest of the Class of 2019 received visitors this week in the school’s non traditional classroom, with open seating in couches and armchairs and workstations with personal laptops. Aguirre was part of a group assigned George Orwell’s “1984”, a book she says they decided to read individually.

The school is the second charter high school developed and designed by the USC Rossier School of Education with a focus on combining “high quality teaching with using technology in the classroom to create personalized learning programs for each student,” according to a release.

Like its predecessor USC Hybrid High, USC East College Prep is operated through the charter management organization Ednovate, of which USC is a fiscal and operating partner. The schools –respectively near the USC main campus downtown and its health sciences campus in Boyle Heights– are chartered through the Los Angeles Unified School District.

USC Provost Michael Quick talks with students Kate Alvara, 14, left and Joceline Morales, 14, right, during the opening and dedication of East College Prep. USC Photo/Gus Ruelas

After an aggressive recruitment campaign this spring, USC East College opened in August. At an official ribbon-cutting ceremony this week, USC Provost Michael Quick said the school was deliberately intent on seeking out students like Aguirre, who will be part of the first generation in their families to go to college.

“My parents instilled in me a sense of the transformative power of education and what going to college could mean, not only for me, but how it can transform communities,” Quick said.

The provost added that USC East is “preparing students to use college their degrees to make positive multigenerational changes” in society and insisted that the high school is an example of how “USC is a serious player in [an effort] to make our communities better.”

USC Dean Karen Gallagher (left), Principal Drew Goltermann, USC trustee and USC East College Prep donor Lydia H. Kennard and USC Provost Michael Quick cut the ribbon during the opening and dedication of the school. USC Photo/Gus Ruelas

The ceremony, which began with a welcome from the Spirit of Troy marching band, was presided by USC Rossier Dean Karen Symms Gallagher, who is also chair of the Ednovate board. She introduced Ednovate CEO Oliver Sicat, a 2001 Rossier graduate.

“Students, let’s not ever forget that we that we never do this journey alone, and that people are here to support you,” Sicat said. “And when it’s your turn, and you have the privilege to give back in any way – whether that’s your money or your intelligence or your humor, give back when you can and continue to create that positive multigenerational change.”

The ceremony also honored USC Trustee Lydia Kennard, who helped fund renovation of USC East College, which is located in an old drive-thru bank on North Mission Boulevard near Lincoln Park.

The school expects to add a new freshman class ever year through 2019 until it becomes a fully operational four-year high school.

Antonio Mejías-Rentas

Antonio Mejías-Rentas is a Senior Editor at Boyle Heights Beat, where he mentors teenage journalists, manages the organization’s website and covers local issues. A veteran bilingual journalist, he's...

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