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.
To address the massive school overcrowding persistent in 2002, I worked with young people and families to win the first new schools in the Eastside in over 80 years. After a hard-fought campaign, we won five new LAUSD schools – Felicitas & Gonzalez Mendez H.S., William Anton E.S., Esteban E. Torres H.S., the Hilda L. Solis Learning Academy and an adult school in East LA. From 2014-2021, I fought alongside Eastside youth and families to pass the “Equity is Justice'' resolutions, which reallocated hundreds of millions in new funding to the highest-need schools. In 2016, I fought to help secure a total of $217 million to modernize Roosevelt High School. For more than a decade, I also fought to bring a new wellness center to Mendez High School to address the mental health needs of our most vulnerable students. We led efforts to eliminate punitive school discipline policies that historically pushed students of color out of school. We fought for and won restorative justice policies and programs that center student voices and needs. We have been at the forefront of fighting for and winning tenant protections for our highest need Eastside residents. When the COVID pandemic hit, InnerCity Struggle took immediate action to provide Eastside students with laptops, headphones and WI-FI access to support them in connecting with virtual learning. We also helped hundreds of residents with mutual aid and cash assistance and connected thousands with life-saving vaccine appointments.
One of my proudest achievements is leading the capital campaign that resulted in the successful construction of InnerCity Struggle’s permanent headquarters – the first Youth and Community Organizing Center in the Eastside of Los Angeles. The modern and ADA accessible facility is a gift to our community and a long-term organizational asset that will continue to train intergenerational organizers prepared to win justice.
It has been a great privilege to see firsthand the determination and resiliency of our youth and families in demanding the investments and resources they truly deserve. Their courage and commitment have moved our Eastside of Los Angeles community closer to equity and justice, but there is much work left to be done.
I am humbled by your support of InnerCity Struggle and of my leadership. I am extremely grateful to our amazing Board of Directors and the InnerCity Struggle staff team for their dedication to this important organization leading change and building grassroots leadership.
I will continue to support the movement for justice and will keep you posted on the next part of my journey. I will serve as Senior Advisor to InnerCity Struggle over the next several months as I support Henry Perez in stepping into the interim executive role that he is highly qualified and prepared for.
I truly hope InnerCity Struggle can continue to count on your support in the organization’s fight for stronger, safer and equitable schools and communities in the Eastside of Los Angeles.
A message from InnerCity Struggle's Board of Directors
On behalf of the InnerCity Struggle's (ICS) Board of Directors, it is with deep gratitude that we announce the transition of Maria Brenes as Executive Director of ICS. While we will miss her enduring leadership, drive and commitment to our mission, we couldn’t be more excited for the future, both for Maria and for ICS.
Under Maria’s more than two decades of leadership, ICS has evolved from a small grassroots organization into a thriving institution, critical to the fabric of the Eastside of Los Angeles. Over those years, she has led countless campaign wins for Eastside communities, including the creation of new Eastside schools for the first time in over 80 years; enacting the historic “A-G Life Prep” policy to ensure all LAUSD high school students have access to college-ready courses; and successfully advocating for the “Equity is Justice” resolution, bringing millions of dollars to historically underfunded schools. It was under her leadership that InnerCity Struggle became homeowners. She led the purchase and construction of a state-of-the-art community center that services the youth, families and residents of the Eastside.
We are proud to say that Maria leaves ICS in a position of incredible strength - fiscal, as well as organizationally. This includes a base of 1,200 youth and adult members, leading a powerful movement for social equity. ICS is also led by a talented and dedicated staff, and a deeply committed Board of Directors, working together to ensure a seamless and effective leadership transition.
After thoughtful deliberation, the Board is excited to announce that Henry Perez, current Associate Director, has stepped in as Interim Executive Director. Henry has over 17 years of experience at ICS, with 13 years as Associate Director, and has previously stepped in as Interim ED on multiple occasions. Henry’s experience is vast, and he has contributed his skills to ICS in strategic planning, leading Board committees, and overseeing strategic relationships with external partners, coalitions and foundations. Henry assumes this role with the full confidence of the staff, ICS members and the Board. In the interim, Maria will serve in a Senior Advisor capacity, working with Henry and the Board to ensure a smooth and effective transition.
The Board has formed a ‘Succession Planning Committee’ composed of staff and Board members, and has engaged a consultant to facilitate a thoughtful and inclusive executive transition plan. A thorough planning process will help inform the Board’s decision and process for the next executive leadership for ICS.
In the near future, we will share more information on future plans to celebrate Maria’s leadership. We will also provide our partners and community members with updates on the continuity of our work under Henry’s leadership.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, thank you for your commitment to, and support of ICS. We look forward to our continued partnership during this important time for ICS.
InnerCity Struggle's Board Chair