So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Social work interns help military family students in 140 schools

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Military children at Santa Margarita Elementary School at Camp Pendleton point out which states they've lived in, before a meeting on Monday, Oct. 22 for newcomers to talk about what it's like to move a lot.

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Principal Pat Kurtz asks newcomers to Santa Margarita Elementary School to raise their hands. Kurtz said the school receives up to six new kids each week.

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Teacher Christina Fossel asks each student to describe in one word what it feels like to move. "Sad," said third grader Gabriel Rethlake.

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Third grader Litzy Vega walks into a classroom with teacher Christine Fossel, before a Newcomer Ambassadors meeting. The meetings help new students connect with "ambassadors," students who have spent a year or more at Santa Margarita.

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Natalia Williams, left, Brynn Weathers, and Kyleigh Fradelis walk to class together. Making friends at a new school as a military child can be difficult, as Principal Pat Kurtz says there is a lot of turnover.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Students can put up photographs on the Hero Wall, of their parent in the military. Kids say it's comforting to see their parent on the wall while at school everyday.

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USC teaching intern Christina Fossel hopes to help military kids with the transition into the school, and the difficulties that come with parents' deployments. Fossel's fiancé is currently deployed in Afghanistan.

For three years a professor of social work at USC has helped to educate a small army of counselors who work with kids in military families at schools and other agencies. Educators admit that this segment of the public school population is woefully underserved.

At Santa Margarita Elementary School, about six new kids arrive and six leave every week. All of them come from families in which at least one parent is in the military.

Christina Fossel leads a half-hour workshop for about two-dozen third graders. Some just started at this school. Others have been here  longer.
“My name is Maria, first year here and I was in Okinawa, Japan… My name is Gwynn. I used to live in North Carolina…  My name is Amy, and I moved from El Paso, Texas,” the students introduce themselves.

RELATED: USC program trains counselors to help students in military families


Educators unveil online role-playing game to increase college-going rates

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USC's new online role-playing game teaches planning for college application process.

A new online game for high school students is designed around one of the most important, most complicated and most frustrating jobs that teenagers face: applying to college.

The game is called “Mission: Admission” and anyone with a Facebook account can play. It’s been three years in the making through a partnership with USC’s Game Innovation Lab.

“We really want to teach them strategies and give them a safe place to fail,” said USC education researcher Zoe Corwin.

Failing in the game is no big deal. Failing to get into the right college because deadline was missed or an application was incomplete is a really big deal.
In "Mission: Admission," a cartoon-like avatar juggles a busy calendar that requires the student to get letters of recommendation and fill out applications, all while studying on an imaginary high school campus. The player can run out of energy, miss deadlines, or fall short of the require qualifications for college admissions.


Is USC's 'sketchy neighborhood' reputation fair? Depends on who you ask

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Los Angeles Police Department Officer Suzan Nelson holds photos of Chinese foreign exchange students Ming Qu (bottom) and Ying Wu (top). The two USC students were murdered in April, about a mile from campus.

The University of Southern California faces an issue that all urban schools have: student safety. Located in a spot just southwest of Downtown L.A., the school has a reputation (deserved or not) for being in a "sketchy" zone. 

That fact dominated coversation around the school in April, when two graduate students from China were shot and killed in what police say was a carjacking gone wrong. Now, students are returning to a USC this week that comes with beefed up LAPD patrols, increased seminars on student safety and the continued presence of private security officers positioned in the most student-heavy blocks around USC.

In the last six months, University Park has had a rate of 226.4 crimes per 10,000 people. Adams-Normandie, to the west of campus, where the two students died, has a lower rate at 123.2 crimes per 10,000 people. By comparison, Downtown's rate was 125.2 crimes per 10,000 people.


USC gets 20-year lease to Memorial Coliseum in 8-to-1 vote

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission has approved a lease agreement with the University of Southern California.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission has approved a lease agreement with the University of Southern California, giving USC long-term control of day-to-day operations at the historic stadium and neighboring Sports Arena.

City News Service says the board voted 8-to-1 Monday with L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks casting the lone dissenting vote.

Under the agreement, the commission continues to oversee both buildings but USC will control day-to-day operations, including scheduling of events and possible naming rights negotiations.

The lease with USC has an initial term of 20 years, with five renewal options that could extend it to 2054.

The lease includes a provision that allows the temporary use of the Coliseum by an NFL team if necessary.




Armed robbery and double homicide raise concerns over USC safety

USC Memorial

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A fellow student stands at Wednesday night's memorial service for two international grad students killed near USC's campus.

An armed robbery and two murders of USC students have students, neighborhoods, and staff talking about safety around the university.

It’s unclear whether the armed robbery suspect shot Wednesday by a University of Southern California police officer is tied to the recent murders of two international graduate students, but the latest incident has re-ignited concerns about safety from students, neighbors and people who work at USC.

Gunshots aren’t a familiar sound around the campus, says Frances Wang. The sophomore lives in the “safety zone” patrolled by USC police — but even so, she says her mother will worry.

"She's always been very worried about the neighborhood but I've always reassured her," says Wang. "We purposefully live closer to campus in a nice apartment that's fairly new. And now she's like, 'I want you to live on campus.'"