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Transit-Focused School Paves Career Pathways for Los Angeles Youth

The Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) recently provided a $10 million loan into a New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) transaction to support the SEED School of Los Angeles County (SEED LA), a startup boarding high school that will serve 400 high school students from South LA and around LA County with an immersive, 24-hour learning environment when it opens in Fall 2022. Admission preference will be granted to “resilient youth,” which includes students experiencing homelessness or foster care, those with family members in prison and those being served by child protective services or the county’s juvenile justice system.

This project was made possible by creative financial collaboration among public and private sector stakeholders, including Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), united in their goal to create a pathway to upward mobility for mostly low-income children of color impacted by systemic disenfranchisement.

SEED LA is part of a larger redevelopment to build assets and connectivity in the community east of Inglewood, which has seen little investment over the past several decades. The project will include a transit center, 180 units of affordable housing (available to those earning 30-80% of the area median income, led by Bridge Housing) and a grocery store.

The school curriculum will focus on transportation, infrastructure, STEM education and the humanities. The students will benefit from access to jobs, internships and coaching opportunities in the transportation and infrastructure space.

SEED LA will be operated by SEED Foundation, a Washington-based charter network led by Lesley Poole, who started her career as a teacher at SEED. For over 23-years, the foundation has successfully operated public charter boarding schools with a 94% average college enrollment rate. Other school locations include Washington, Baltimore and Miami.

Investing for racial equity 
This project is an example of LIIF’s impact-led lending work. The SEED Foundation and its leadership uphold a strong culture of racial equity awareness and have demonstrated concrete steps in their planning to prioritize racial equity within SEED LA. This includes a social justice curriculum as well as staff and student recruitment through a lens of racial equity and diversity. SEED LA will serve a predominantly Black and Latino student population in a neighborhood with a poverty rate of 40%.

Financing partners
In addition to $10 million in debt  from LIIF, financing included $15 million in debt from three other CDFIs (LISC, NFF and CIP), $15 million in debt from JPMorgan Chase and $70 million in NMTC allocation from four community development entities (ExED, Chase, Civic Builders and LA Development Fund). Loans were also provided by Weingart Foundation and LA County Development Authority. LA County and LA Metro together will provide $142 million in operating grants to SEED LA over 15 years to support the boarding component.