06 Mar From South Central to Yale and back: Meet Jade
The LA Promise Charter Middle School in South LA is full of boisterous 6th and 7th graders. With a 95% attendance rate, these students are coming to school – and benefiting from the wise leadership of individuals like Jade Harvey, an Americorps Vista and our Health and Wellness coordinator.
Jade is originally from South LA. She left Los Angeles to attend Yale University, where she studied Ethnicity, Race, and Migration and Human Rights. But she knew she wanted to come back. “Before I went to college, I had a friend who was murdered nearby due to senseless gun violence,” she explains. “From then on I knew I wanted to work with kids to prevent this kind of violence in South Central after graduation.”
Here, we sit down with Jade to learn about what she does at LA Promise Charter Middle School, and what motivates her to keep doing the work.
What is your role?
As the health and wellness coordinator, I’ve been focused on building new programs and bringing resources into the school.
I’ve been the point person to implement breakfast in the classroom here at the charter, and I realized the school didn’t have any data about food insecurity among its students.
Food insecurity & feminine hygiene
I just finished surveying the kids about food insecurity, meal choices, all of that. What’s come back is 27% of our kids are food insecure, which means they may not have access to food over weekends, or they have less than they should because their family doesn’t have enough money. I’m now working on a parent survey to cross check those numbers to see exactly what we’re working with. My vision is to start a program that would provide students with food to take home over the weekends.
Menstrual health and feminine hygiene has also been a big focus of mine. I’ve been working to bring supplies into the school so that the girls have access to what they need during the school day and over the weekends.
And, I’m working on PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports), trying to put in place restorative justice discipline structures and positive behavior incentive systems.
One of the newer teachers is starting meditation detention, where he leads the kids in an extended meditation.
I am working with the health teacher, Ms. Revill, to build a speaker series. We’re launching health and wellness Mondays, bringing in a dentist, a dermatologist, yogis, meditation people, a grief specialist, and Pressed Juicery, which will come and give the kids food. I want to bring health into the classroom.
What are the challenges?
South LA is a neighborhood with a lot of trauma, which manifests as mental and physical unwellness. There’s a lot of violence in South Central, and you see that in how the kids talk to and relate to each other.
South Central as a community needs a lot of love. That’s why the LA Promise Fund is cool. Schools can be a really interesting intervention point. I’d love to see South Central as a community become safer and healthier.
The kids are so fun. They’re crazy, but they’re really fun. I think the work would be really difficult without kids that are really loving and receptive to the attention when you give it to them. Being new to education, in the beginning, I wondered what kind of an authoritative figure I would be. I’m firm, but I never yell. Learning how to become the kind of adult I want to be in their life has been a really cool experience.
There’s a lot of mentorship within LAPF, and learning how schools run is really great. Having the opportunity to make a lot of meaningful interventions on a daily basis is really interesting to me. I do feel personally involved in sitting down with the kids and talking through their feelings and helping them make better decisions. I like the role that I have established there. It’s fun being in a startup environment where there’s so much need.
What is your dream for the kids you work with?
I worry about all of their safety a lot, and whether safety will come from going on to four-year colleges. We need to make sure the kids are proficient – that they can do math; that they can read and write and express themselves properly. Education as a means for safety – economic and social mobility. Where they’re at now, they have very few options. I would love to see the kids have as many options as they want as adults — to have the independence, and freedom and safety that they deserve.