Learning Works and artWORKS Continues to Change the Lives of Pasadena Youth
Celebrating its tenth anniversary re-engaging high school dropouts, Learning Works has an approach to poor families that works, and a means to improve the city’s dropout rates. The school provides a personalized, rigorous academic program and relevant life skills to traditionally under-served students in grades 6-12 who have withdrawn or are in danger of withdrawing from mainstream education. The youth it serves would inaccurately be called “at-risk.” They are, in fact, “in crisis” or have already demonstrated a behavior or condition that exceeds at-risk, such as becoming pregnant, dropping out of school or entering the juvenile delinquency system. Learning Works focuses on what works: engaging students through Rigor, Relevance and Relationships. We lead with relationships, offer rigor and build relevance into the curriculum. Since the school opened in 2008, it has graduated 856 students who would not have otherwise earned a diploma, and Pasadena Unified School District’s dropout rate has dropped from 24.6 to 9.4 percent.
What differentiates Learning Works and largely drives its success is twofold. First, the school has developed a set of principles, practiced daily by staff and students, which are the cornerstone and culture of the school. The second is its Chasers®, who literally chase students back to school to complete coursework and to graduate. Chasing includes coaching, mentoring and tutoring. Chasers are current college students who have come from similar conditions as the students we serve, including previous dropouts, juvenile delinquents and teen parents. They know the streets and work through youth in the neighborhoods with one goal in mind: graduation.
artWORKS is a collaboration of Learning Works and Armory Center for the Arts that “started with a yes!” from Rusnak Auto Group, a Pasadena-based company that generously leases the space for LW’s arts facility for $1 a month. The core mission of artWORKS is facilitating the development of artistic expression for area youth. It offers workshops in a variety of arts, provides space for performances and exhibits, develops youth skill sets that are transferable to the workplace and school, and connects youth to a multitude of community arts resources.
In July, artWORKS competed in and won Leadership Pasadena’s inaugural Setting the Table tablescape competition. The design incorporated a wide variety of sub-cultures, often looked at by the masses as nuisances, with subjects including skateboarding, graffiti, poverty, drug use, sex and homelessness. In particular, homelessness emerged as a leading theme, given the fact that a sizable part of Learning Works’ student population has been homeless at some point in their lives.
artWORKS prides itself on providing hope for youth, and seeks to connect to other organizations that are trying to better the city and all it’s constituents, not just a select few. Please join us and come see our winning table on display at artWORKS at Art Night on October 12th from 6:00-10:00 pm.
To learn more about Learning Works visit www.learningworkscharter.com or contact Kurt Rahn at (626) 564-2871. To learn more about artWORKS visit www.artworkspasadena.com or contact Marissa Naraghi at (626) 564-2871.
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