The COVID-19 pandemic has left a lasting impact on all students, but especially for those experiencing extreme obstacles to their academic success. Da Vinci RISE High, with campuses in Hawthorne, South Los Angeles, and Culver City, provides a comprehensive and holistic education for students who all too often fall through the cracks: students experiencing homelessness, extreme poverty, probation, or foster care.

Founded in 2017, Da Vinci RISE High is one of only 10 schools in the nation to win an XQ ‘Super School’ grant funded by Laurene Powell Jobs and Russlyn Ali to reimagine high school. RISE High currently serves 206 students from 61 zip codes in three sites that are co-located with nonprofit partners. More than 30 percent of its students require special education services. RISE High is part of the Da Vinci Schools (www.davincischools.org) network of free, public charter schools serving students in the Los Angeles area. Da Vinci Schools was one of only eight projects in the nation awarded a Wave III Next Generation Learning Challenges grant, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates and Hewlett Foundations, for innovation in college readiness and completion.

The Da Vinci RISE High Student Support Services department employs a variety of mental health professionals and social workers to ensure that every student is supported on their life journey. These wraparound supports provide an important foundation for RISE students, with SSS team members providing daily welfare checkups, housing support, crisis intervention, mental health projects, food delivery, transportation, and case conference services to RISE students.

“RISE has been a great school to go to,” said one RISE student who is a young mother in foster care. “The support the Student Support Services team has given me has helped reduce my stress and anxiety around school. I just became a mom and they have supported me so much, giving me diapers, clothes, toys, and sometimes rides to school. I really love that it is a safe and comfortable place. I love RISE!”

Ironically, Da Vinci RISE High is at-risk of falling through the cracks itself because of rules around new state and federal funding programs that RISE is not able to access due to the unique configuration of the program. (RISE is classified as a countywide independent study charter school authorized by the Los Angeles County of Education). There’s a very real possibility that RISE will be forced to alter its model, limiting essential resources for students, due to a deficit of $450,000 for the 2021-22 school year alone. The overall situation is complicated and hopefully preventable, with a change in independent study funding and through investments by foundations, donors and others interested in supporting underserved communities.

As the pandemic continues to upend the education system, Da Vinci RISE High is at the forefront of combining flexible education and social services to make a lasting change for L.A.’s most at-risk learners. RISE’s goal is not just to keep its doors open, but to help other schools who are serving a similar underserved population of students experiencing disruptions in their academic journeys.

For additional information about Da Vinci RISE High or to help support RISE please visit https://dvrise.davincischools.org/ or contact Erin Whalen at [email protected] or 310-490-5100