These high school grads are the COVID Class of 2023 and have the stories to prove it

It had only been a week since graduation and these teenagers were giddy. Summer sprawled out in front of them. College is just a few months away — a future some still can’t believe will be theirs.

One will be leaving soon to take prep classes at UC Berkeley. Another has an apprenticeship at a Bank of America branch. One dreams of being a congresswoman. But this recent afternoon was not so much about the future as it was about the past.

These students, who attended Los Angeles Unified schools in the Eastside and South Los Angeles, see themselves as the COVID class of 2023. They were first-year high school students when the pandemic forced campus closures in March 2020. Now, when so many have moved on to normalcy, these students explained how the pandemic left a transformative mark on their high school years.

They returned to the classroom as juniors, lives upended, academics in tatters and the pandemic’s emotional fallout palpable.

Gathering at InnerCity Struggle, a nonprofit in Boyle Heights, they described an urgent resilience, a compulsion toward a better future that carried them through waves of grief, the rebuilding of relationships and the stress of college applications. Some talked of their experiences with food insecurity, housing instability, increased anxiety and depression. All of them mentioned the teachers, family and friends who carried them through their four years.

Here are some of their reflections.

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Most COVID-19 Tenant Protections Have Ended. What Comes Next Is Unclear For Many LA Renters

For more than three years, L.A. County’s COVID-19 tenant protections helped prevent evictions. These protections expired at the end of March, but some Angelenos are still struggling to pay rent.

The end of the pandemic-era protections also means that renters who owe money to their landlords will have to pay it back. Some tenants are thousands of dollars in debt, and advocates fear that many of them could become unhoused.

Earlier this week, staff members and volunteers at InnerCity Struggle, a nonprofit in Boyle Heights, went door knocking to alert community members about the changes — and to inform them about their rights.

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LA’s COVID-19 Tenant Protections Have Expired. To Ensure Renters Know Their Rights, A Nonprofit Is Spreading The Word Door To Door

L.A. County’s COVID-19 tenant protections have expired, meaning renters can no longer put off making monthly payments due to pandemic-related harms. Tenants who are behind on rent will also have to pay back what they owe, though not all at once.

To help spread the word, tenant advocates throughout the region are turning to social media and hosting workshops. And at least one local nonprofit is making house calls: staff members and volunteers at InnerCity Struggle will go door-to-door in Boyle Heights, East L.A., El Sereno and Lincoln Heights on Monday, targeting streets with apartment buildings.

“It's a really critical time for [renters] to be informed,” said Daniel Jiménez, director of community organizing at the nonprofit. “We're walking the community to ensure that [residents] have the knowledge and resources they need.”

Community walks are a routine part of InnerCity Struggle, but they’re normally conducted ahead of election season to encourage voters to cast their ballots. This time around, the nonprofit is operating under a different sense of urgency.

One of Jiménez’s chief concerns is helping renters who took in extra roommates or pets amid the pandemic understand the current rules.

In the city of L.A., unauthorized roommates and pets will be allowed to remain in place until Jan. 31, 2024. But in the rest of L.A. County, they’re no longer allowed. Jiménez fears this could lead to confusion among renters — and potential evictions.

Aside from sharing information about the COVID-19 renter protections, the staff members and volunteers at InnerCity Struggle will distribute pamphlets with details on where to go to find support with other issues, including free legal counsel for anyone facing an eviction or landlord harassment.

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Los Angeles Schools Strike: Classes Called Off for 420,000 Students

LOS ANGELES — As rain pummeled the sidewalks and wind bent back umbrellas on Tuesday morning, Bartui Merchain, a pool clerk, arrived at her job at a recreation center, her children in tow.

She had left her 14-year-old son at home, but her workplace east of downtown Los Angeles suddenly had become an impromptu child supervision site for Mindy, 9, and Israel, 8.

Ms. Merchain, 36, had learned only the day before that school employees and teachers were going on a three-day strike, facing off against administrators in the nation’s second-largest school district. It would mean no classes for the district’s more than 420,000 students — news that many children seemed to greet with glee, though a number of parents felt blindsided.

“My son told me, ‘There’s no school Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,’” Ms. Merchain said. “This really caught us off guard. Definitely. It’s not something that they prepared us for, like, for two weeks. They just straight up dropped it like a bomb.”

Across Los Angeles, the normal school week gave way to disruption on Tuesday. Children tagged along with parents, were sent to recreation centers or stayed with relatives. Teachers and school employees hit the streets, where they hoisted signs of outrage and chanted for better pay and working conditions.

The strike began on Tuesday morning with bus drivers walking a picket line outside a Los Angeles Unified School District lot where they normally would be starting their routes. The union that represents 30,000 teachers’ assistants, bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers is seeking a 30 percent pay increase, and union leaders say their members are paid not much more than the minimum wage as living costs surge in Southern California.

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As COVID-19 Protections End, LA Renters And Landlords Brace For Possible Eviction Wave

Lilian Pacheco and her family have lived in a two-bedroom home in South L.A. for nine years. Until 2020, her husband worked in construction. She worked as a homemaker, looking after their four children.

The pandemic hit and upended the family’s stability. Pacheco’s husband contracted the virus in December 2020 and was hospitalized — it took months for him to recover. As a result, he lost his job. Now he works as a fruit and vegetable vendor, and Pacheco works part-time cleaning a movie theater. But three years after COVID-19 first struck the region, they’ve yet to return to their pre-pandemic income levels.

To get by, the family has relied on COVID-19 renter protections and rental assistance programs to help keep a roof over their heads. Those protections are set to expire Friday.

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Evictions rise, tenants scramble for help as LA County protections expire

This story has been updated to reflect the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors vote to not extend its tenant protections.

Irma Cervantes could barely afford the $750 monthly rent for the converted garage apartment she lives in with her children in East Los Angeles when she worked full time at a laundromat.

When the pandemic shut down non-essential businesses, Cervantes was out of a job. Then she got sick with long COVID-19. 

Now she owes 10 months rent, she said, and is trying to pay it down. Her three children, ages 19 to 23, are helping by working part-time jobs. 

Her landlord has increased demands for payment and wants her out, Cervantes said. And on March 31, L.A. County’s tenant eviction protections are set to expire. 

“I’m left thinking, what will happen when there aren’t any protections,” Cervantes said. “What will I do with my kids? We can’t pay $1,600 rent.”

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Scrap school police and add counselors and academic help for Black students, coalition says



Community and student activists on Tuesday relaunched a campaign to eliminate the Los Angeles School Police Department, calling instead for expansion of mental health and academic programs, college and career counseling and job and life-skills training — focusing especially on the needs of Black students.

The call from a coalition of organizations puts renewed pressure on Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Alberto Carvalho as he also confronts tense labor negotiations and pushes forward with his own expensive agenda for academic progress.

Meanwhile, a group of Latino parents on Tuesday spoke out in support of school police — a counterpoint of the message delivered with passion by about 150 protesters on the steps of Mann UCLA Community School in South Los Angeles.

“We’ve been fighting the school-to-prison pipeline for decades,” said Amir Whitaker, senior policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “And this fight to remove school police is a part of it.”

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L.A. County extends eviction moratorium by 2 months


With Los Angeles County’s pandemic eviction moratorium set to lapse in days, the Board of Supervisors has voted to extend the countywide renters protections once more.

The moratorium will now expire at the end of March. This, county leaders say, will be the last time they push the end date.

The moratorium, first put in place at the coronavirus pandemic’s outset, was initially set to end Jan 31. With some on the board still worried about the lingering financial impacts of the pandemic, county leaders voted Tuesday to extend the countywide moratorium through March 31.

“COVID is not over. People are still getting sick. They’re still out of work,” said Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, the board’s sole renter, who spearheaded the motion. “They’re still losing jobs and unfortunately still dying from COVID.”

Under the moratorium, landlords cannot evict low-income tenants who say they were financially harmed by COVID-19 and can’t pay rent.

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Sharing Exciting News and Embracing Change



Dear Friends and Allies,

I am writing to share important and exciting news. I have made the decision to transition from my role as Executive Director of InnerCity Struggle. I have been honored to lead this powerful organization and work with amazing staff, youth and community members and allies for over 20 years. I have decided to pursue new leadership avenues to help advance educational and social justice in the Eastside of Los Angeles and beyond. In the interim, I have agreed to serve as a Senior Advisor to InnerCity Struggle to support a smooth transition of roles to the Interim Executive Director – my long-time Associate Director and friend – Henry Perez. 

For the past over 20 years, I have been dedicated to building a movement to fight for great schools and thriving communities in the Eastside of Los Angeles. I have had the honor of uplifting community voices to win public policies and resources. Together with students and families, we raised graduation rates, reduced suspension and push-out rates, reallocated millions in new funding to Eastside schools and strengthened the safety net for Eastside of LA families.

Under my leadership, InnerCity Struggle has served as a movement organization advancing much needed systemic change.




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Henry Perez, and his social justice group ask Kevin de León to resign

De León has served as the LA City council member for District 14 since 2020 and said his resignation is not an option. “I have a moral obligation to my constituency, to give them a voice,” he told Smiley.

But for Henry Perez, associate director of Inner City Struggle, a social justice non-profit organization in CD-14, de León no longer represents the community of the Eastside. 

The week the audio was leaked, Inner City Struggle began reaching out to other community organizations in East LA, the majority with offices within CD-14, in order to formulate an open letter for de León. 

The open letter, which was published on Oct. 15, asked for de León’s immediate resignation. “Almost two years ago, you assumed your post as elected representative of District 14,” the letter addressed to de León read. “Since that time, and during your campaign, you stressed to residents that you were different from your predecessors and that we could trust you – but your uttered words in the recorded conversation at the LA Federation Of Labor have broken our already cautious trust.” 

Perez said that, as leading organizers within de León’s district, it was important to step toward the right side of the situation and demand justice.

Inner City Struggle was founded in 1994 by a small group of parents, youth, and residents in Boyle Heights. The organization was formed in the spirit of the civil rights movement, seeking to reduce crime and violence, and investing in training and organizing its residents.

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