Comparte, a new student organization at Occidental, will begin offering weekly courses in basic English for day laborers in partnership with the Instituto de Educacion Popular del Sur de California, or the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA), at the organization’s Cypress Park location.
The group will focus on topics such as how to negotiate wages and read safety labels on chemicals and machinery, according to executive board member Claire Krelitz (first year).
Working last semester as fellows for the Urban Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) under the guidance of UEPI Program Director Heng Lam Foong and the Partnership for Community Engagement Program Coordinator Valerie Lizarraga, Krelitz, Sofia Polo (senior) and Tatiana Ramos-Gallardo (junior) developed the curriculum after interviewing 10–15 workers to assess their needs. The workers emphasized the need for lessons pertinent to wage negotiations and safety, according to Krelitz.
“Being empowered and confident to navigate their work space is the No. 1 thing that they told us they need,” Krelitz said.
The IDEPSCA’s Cypress Park community job center — a cluster of trailers in the Home Depot parking lot on Figueroa Street — is one of four centers that operates as an intermediary between employers and uncontracted day laborers, who work in fields such as carpentry, landscaping, housecleaning and masonry. Workers arrive as early as 6 a.m. to register and are assigned to jobs based on a raffle system. IDEPSCA’s centers also offer English classes and information about health, labor and immigrant laws, according to the nonprofit’s website.
Krelitz, Polo and Ramos-Gallardo decided to mobilize Occidental students by forming a club rather than making the project a component of a community-based learning class for funding reasons, according to Lizarraga. As a club, the organization will be able to secure funding through the Associated Students of Occidental College Senate to pay for transportation once they determine a budget, Polo said.
Polo devised the name as an acronym for Community Partnership for Education Empowerment. In English, “comparte” translates to “share.”
“Public education is about sharing,” Polo said. “It’s not about one person explaining everything. It’s about each person sharing a little bit about themselves, a little bit about their experience and sharing their knowledge.”
The team of students and advisers sent out an application for the club at the beginning of the semester. Polo expected fewer than ten students to apply, but Comparte ultimately received about 30 applications. Krelitz said the club now has 19 members.
“I realized that there’s a desire for that on this campus when we started advertising and immediately there was way more people that applied than we thought were going to apply,” Polo said.
IDEPSCA Interim Executive Director Maegan Ortiz led training on popular education during the club’s orientation two weeks ago. She expects the curriculum to change after classes begin and workers’ needs become clearer.
“Popular education is all about learning from each other,” Lizaragga said. “We’re all learners and we’re all teachers.”