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Crete Academy reaches out to homeless students in South L.A.

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Out of the many thousands of homeless and low-income people in Los Angeles, a significant amount are children.

The everyday battle of constantly worrying about where the next meal will come from or where to lay their head at night can be difficult for a young child.

Out of the many burdens these families and children face daily, it is helpful to have a safe, educational place to go to not only escape life’s sometimes difficult journey, but enrich the minds of these children.

The Crete Academy, a nonprofit elementary charter school, was created just for that reason.

Founded by Hattie and Brett Mitchell, the Crete Academy delivers educational services to impoverished and homeless students from transitional kindergarten (4 years old) through the sixth grade.

The school’s vision was developed by Hattie Mitchell 12 years ago when she was attending Cal State Los Angeles and she joined the university’s gospel choir.

During the Christmas holidays, the choir would visit different shelters where they would sing to the people there and surrounding homeless areas. During a visit on Skid Row, the shelter was closed and outside of the shelter she saw a mother and young child hungry and cold, according to Brett Mitchell.

“At that moment, she knew she wanted to do something in education and decided that she was going to create a school for kids in that situation,” he said.

Hattie Mitchell looked at the little girl and knew she wanted to do whatever it took to help children like her in deplorable situations.

“At that moment, she decided she wanted to be a school leader, to open a school and to offer education as a way to improve the welfare of kids that otherwise would have small or no chance at that and immediately after graduating she started teaching at a charter school,” Brett Mitchell added.

Hattie Mitchell received a master’s degree in education and public policy from Pepperdine University, interned at the White House in education leadership, received her doctorate in education at USC and during her last year after receiving her doctorate, she began working on developing the school.

That meant planning the mission, vision, the kids they were going to serve, and the communities. So with homeless and at-risk homeless populations with students that needed the services the most, the vision would soon come to life.

On Aug. 14, Hattie Mitchell’s hard work paid off and the Crete Academy opened its doors on Crenshaw Avenue to more than 100 students.

So what do the students feel about their new school? Kai, a fourth grader, and Mariah, a third grader, were all smiles when asked about their teacher.

“I like Ms. Capra because she cares about how protected we are,” Kai said. “She tries to make sure no one is getting hurt.”

“She helps us learn stuff and she teaches me how to be good at a lot of stuff,” Mariah said.

Kai, who wants to be a doctor or fireman, and Mariah, who aspires to be the president, are two of the many students enrolled at the Crete Academy.

The nonprofit is staffed by six teachers and three teachers’ assistants. The academy also has a wellness center with three Americorps members.

“We offer counseling on site so we have a wellness team meeting with parents and children after school who may be experiencing circumstances in their life worthy of counseling, or who have known behavioral or emotional issues, there is a wellness team here,” Brett Mitchell said.

Dental check-ups and free medical screenings are also provided by the wellness center.

With the motto: “One day, the cycle of poverty will end and children who once were homeless and living in poverty will be leaders of this world, ” the Crete Academy is on its way to improving the lives of the students it serves.

For more information on the Crete Academy, visit the website: https://www.creteacademy.org/.

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