Plaza de la Raza primarily serves the surrounding Latino communities of Lincoln Heights and East Los Angeles, with many of its programs and services designed to address the needs of these immediate neighbors. Plaza also hosts a large and growing population of Asian and African American families (10%). Students who attend Plaza’s School of Performing and Visual Arts are mostly children and teenagers – 90% of whom are from poverty to low-income families.
Plaza de la Raza’s programs are vital to the larger Latino community of Los Angeles, too. Census figures show Latinos comprise more that 40% of Los Angeles County’s population and Plaza remains the only multi-disciplinary cultural arts center solely dedicated to address the needs of this growing population. As a result, Plaza has become a valuable bridge between the Latino community and the larger Los Angeles cultural landscape.
Plaza de la Raza recognizes that youth who find their way from the streets to the few effective organizations in their neighborhoods encounter different environments that have the power to transform their discretionary hours into resources and opportunities for growth and hope. Over the years, Plaza has demonstrated leadership in arts recreational activities for youth provided through its School of Performing and Visual Arts. Since its founding, the school has continually served low-income children and families, and has extensive experience in addressing their specific needs.
The demographics of Plaza’s student population currently includes:
LANGUAGE: 35% English speaking; 43% Spanish speaking; 20% bilingual; 2% other
AGES: youth, ages 5-9, 17% youth, ages 10-13 (middle school or 6th-8th grade students); 19% youth, ages 14-18 high school or 9th-12th grade students); 5% adults, ages 18 and above
ETHNICITY: 90% Latino; 8% Asian; 2% other
According to the 2000 U. S. Census, and fortified by a recent United Way study, the majority of the youth population in the surrounding community and local area that Plaza serves is at or below poverty level. Other factors, such as educational performance (i.e., the local high schools have graduation rates of only 38%), limited public transportation, gang and drug trafficking activity, depressed local economy, limited health care, and social barriers due to language, citizenship, and immigrant status, all factor into the quotient for at-risk status of our local youth.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “students who spend one to four hours weekly in extracurricular activities are 49% less likely to use drugs and 37% less likely to become teen parents than students who do not participate in these types of activities.”
For every child that attends Plaza, there is a family. The adults who are regularly a part of our activities are unique in the sense that they are often brought to Plaza by their child or children rather than the reverse. Parents have been long-time participants in Plaza’s activities and are key to the success of the performance ensembles and special projects. They have volunteered in a variety of capacities and have voiced themselves at board convenings, staff meetings, school conferences, and public events.