TRANS4M Boyle Heights 2012. Photo by Ciro Cesar / La Opinión
By 2016, i.am.College Track’s leaders in Boyle Heights hope that 95 percent of the students it works with will graduate from high school and that 90 percent of them enroll in four-year colleges. This would be no small feat in Boyle Heights, where only 16 percent of residents over 25 years have graduated from high school, and only three percent have a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Census.
This year, the program will give 60 students from Boyle Heights a chance to visit Beijing for six weeks. The all-expenses-paid trip will include an introduction to Chinese language study as well as exposure to Chinese customs and society.
“It’s all about building the human capital in Boyle Heights,” says Enrique Legaspi, who oversees the program for the i.am.angel foundation.
One of the tools recently introduced to students in the program is a mapping tool called Geographical Integrations Systems (GIS). A passion of will.i.am’s, GIS can help students organize data and learn more about a community’s infrastructure.
Will.i.am says the concept is simple: “When you’re lost, you need a map to know where you’re going.” He says the maps will help give insight into the community. He wants kids to become “the agents of change they want to see,” and help transform their neighborhoods.