Two more schools open under the Ednovate banner

October 4, 2017

The addition of Brío College Prep and Esperanza College Prep mark a total of five schools in the USC Rossier-founded network

By Ross Brenneman

USC Esperanza freshman Gavin Arroyo, left, works with freshman Jonathan Fuentes. The school opened this August in East Los Angeles.

In 2012, USC Rossier laid the groundwork to establish five high schools, with the goal that every student would graduate and be assured the opportunity to go to college.

This August, Brío College Prep and Esperanza College Prep opened their doors to new freshman classes, the fourth and fifth schools in the Ednovate charter network, making good on USC Rossier’s original designs.

Brío and Esperanza join USC College Prep, Santa Ana Campus, which opened last summer; East College Prep, which opened the year before that; and USC Hybrid High College Prep, the flagship school that opened in 2012, and which has successfully graduated 100 percent of its first two senior classes, with all of them gaining admittance to at least one four-year college.

The new schools will employ the model of learning utilized at the other Ednovate schools: personalized learning, college-going culture and innovative technology. Each school will add one new grade of students per year, reaching full capacity in 2020.

“With the establishment of our fourth and fifth schools, we have reached a key milestone in our partnership with Ednovate,” said Karen Symms Gallagher, dean of USC Rossier. “But more importantly, as our schools begin reaching full enrollment, we will now be bringing positive multigenerational change to thousands of students and their families throughout Southern California.”

Born for this

For Esperanza principal Rosa Alanis, the chance to lead her school was a literal homecoming, as the school moved into a building that used to be Santa Martha Hospital—the same hospital Alanis was born in.

“I believe and have learned that the best way to combat the inequities that exist for low-income students is by building schools armed with passionate, mission-driven educators, high expectations and love,” said Alanis. “I’m thrilled to build a school just like this in the neighborhood I was born in.”

Jeannie Cho, principal of Brío and a daughter of Korean immigrants, sees the opportunity to shape a kinder, more inclusive world.

“Now that school has started, we’re challenging students to think critically about how their everyday language affects the safety of spaces, how empathy goes a long way and how race, gender, education and other things contribute to how society operates,” Cho said.

While carving out unique identities for their respective schools, Alanis and Cho have also found themselves able to draw on the expertise of the other principals in the Ednovate network. They meet as a formal group every two weeks, but talk, text, and email on a daily basis.

“We ask each other questions, share best practices, laugh, cry and support each other at the most random times of the day,” Alanis said. “We might be young as an organization but we are mighty.”

Easing in

Aware of the bumps that can come with a new school opening, the principals of Brío and Esperanza are taking problems in stride.

“There are always unexpected things that happen that are sometimes out of our control,” Cho said. “Our students have very intense things going on at home. There’s fear and stress over immigration status, sick family members and past traumas. I’ve learned to just be ready to be present during the school day instead of behind a computer screen.”

Cho has also worked to introduce healthy conflict into the faculty, delegating decisionmaking to her teachers as often as possible in order to help them feel empowered.

At Esperanza (the Spanish word for “hope”; “brio” is Italian for “vivacity”), Alanis said it’s been hard, as expected, but “there is nothing more rewarding than to see your work come to fruition,” and perhaps no more so than at fall orientation, where students came in with their parents, the school’s name emblazoned on the school uniforms.

“For immigrant and first-generation families, children are the hope for their families,” Alanis said. “My parents reminded me of that every single day. I felt joy to watch parents bring their kids to me, with all the hope and trust in the world for a college-prep education.”

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