Students devise policy changes

From the classroom to the mayor’s office, a group of students had the opportunity to use their research to make an impact on local issues.

Students enrolled in POSC 395: Directed Governmental and Political Leadership Internship created policy recommendations on how to improve schools. The recommendations were presented to Mayor Garcetti at a conference at Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo Charter High School earlier this month.

The conference was hosted by Green Dot Public Schools’ United Parent organization, a group that informs families how to improve their communities and helps schools in the area, and invited USC students, parents and the mayor to come together to tour the school and discuss suggestions the students created based on research they conducted in the fall 2014 semester.

Each student in the POSC 395 course was placed into a group partnered with either Green Dot Public Schools, LA Metro or Caruso Affiliated. Students in the Green Dot Public School group were each assigned a topic related to education that they had to research.

Before entering into the research partnership, Green Dot schools were preparing for a conference with the mayor. After the research, students were invited to the conference to see their findings get presented.

Students’ work culminated in a final policy report; they synthesized their findings in a 10-page paper to Green Dot, along with a PowerPoint with their recommendations.

Laura Reilly, a sophomore majoring in policy, planning and development and political science, was given “Economic and Workforce Development” as her topic. In her research efforts, Laura reviewed the city of Los Angeles’ and Green Dot schools’ efforts to combat these issues. In addition, she looked at effective practices from other cities to see what sort of adjustment Los Angeles could make to better support students.

“I think it speaks to obvious economic principles,” Reilly said. “If the city is doing well economically, then the schools will do well because the resources are there. If overall investments are up, then people typically choose to invest more in schools.”

Larry Fondation, director of community engagement for Green Dot, helped the students through the process and instructed them with what the organization hoped to gain out of the research. Fondation developed topics for the students to research in order to come to the best policy recommendations. Veronica Toledo, also part of Green Dot schools, helped organize the conference with Larry.

Tina Fleming, a junior majoring in political science and psychology, analyzed how a minimum wage increase will affect students’ successes.

“For my topic, I examined the correlation between minimum wage and workforce development by researching the potential effects of Mayor Garcetti’s proposed minimum wage increase,” Fleming said. “Analyzing how an increase in the minimum wage will affect workers and their student’s success, and how small business and nonprofits will respond due to the increase in labor costs.”

The POSC 395 students worked remotely from campuses or libraries, and reviewed data online. Part of their research efforts was interview-based. Students met with partners at Green Dot schools and talked with community members who were part of the United Parents Assembly.

Samantha Levra, a junior majoring in sociology and political science, explained that talking to community members made the project more fulfilling.

“It was really cool to do a research project and actually see tangible results and see the people that my research will hopefully affect, versus other classes when you do research it’s kind of like for a project and for a grade and when it’s over you kind of forget about it,” Levra said. “It was cool to do research that will hopefully have a lasting impact.”