Our Stories

Southeast Cities High School Students Team Up for Toddlers

Low-income families in Los Angeles County face an alarming deficit of early care and education (ECE) options. Nowhere is the crisis more acute than in the Southeast Cities – including Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Maywood and South Gate.  

Recent studies show that only 2 percent of infants and toddlers in the County have access to licensed day care centers.  Compounding their ECE challenges, the Southeast Cities lack adequate outdoor play spaces for toddlers, a problem linked to the staggering rate of childhood obesity in these cities.  Moreover, with 90% of our cognitive development occurring between 0 and 5, inadequate access to active and thought-provoking outdoor play spaces hampers brain development in toddlers.  Early learning gaps so prevalent in the Southeast Cities stack the deck against their growing populations.

With the help of Public Counsel and the Maywood YMCA, 30 high school students from the Southeast Cities (the ECE 30) look to change the outdoor play space equation – one playground at a time.   Starting in September 2014, the ECE 30 will commence a 8 month course through which they will learn the skills necessary to find and realize an outdoor painted play space specially designed to engage the developing minds and bodies of toddlers. 

The California Health Report recently spoke to students and Public Counsel's Christina Giorgio and created a video about the project. You can watch the video below.

In addition to Public Counsel staff, local leaders and educators will teach the course and local artists will help the ECE 30 implement an inspiring painted play space design.  Putting their education into action, in June 2015 the ECE 30 will host a community paint day where the ECE community, elected officials, families, students and recreational enthusiast will transform an under-resourced playground into a symbol of hope and community empowerment for toddlers and future generations in the Southeast Cities.

“Public Counsel is thrilled to be working with the Maywood YMCA and the ECE 30 on raising the profile on the need for expanding access to child care and outdoor recreational spaces in the Southeast Cities,” said Ritu Mahajan, staff attorney with Public Counsel’s ECE Law Unit.  “These students know firsthand how the lack of early care and educational opportunities and recreational play spaces impact their communities and they are fired up to tackle the problem through civic engagement and artistic celebration!”

Click here to email us for more information and learn how you can help!

Public Counsel thanks the Maywood YMCA and First 5 LA for making this project possible.

Public Counsel is working to expand access to early care and play space across Southeast LA County through a grant from First 5 LA and the California Community Foundation.