On January 29, 2011, more than 700 members of the Los Angeles and GSEP community united to participate in the first “Children’s outreach: advancing Social Transformation and learning (COASTAL) 5K/10K Walk/Run and Kiddie K,” hosted by GSEP and sponsored by Comerica Bank. Additional sponsors included KPCC 89.3 fm, JaCK 93.1 fm, Watt Companies, Cornerstone learning Technology, Roadrunner Sports, and Grad Images. The family-friendly event was held to support many of the 2.5 million children in Los Angeles who endure serious social, economic, and mental health challenges, inhibiting them from realizing their fullest potential. For example:
• More than 4,000 children under age 5 do not have a place to sleep. Families with children are one of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population.
• One in five children has a diagnosable mental illness. Nearly two-thirds of them receive little or no help, leading to a decline in school performance, depression, and persistent disobedience or aggression.
• One in three students will not complete high school, a rate higher among minorities and students with mental health challenges. These students are three times more likely to be imprisoned during their lifetime.
More than $6,000 was raised to support the school’s children’s initiatives that lead to a prosperous adulthood: preparing K–12 teachers for service in urban areas; counseling families who cannot afford it; and caring for homeless children. “The professions in which we specialize—education and psychology—exist to serve the needs of others,” said Dr. Margaret Weber, dean of GSEP. “To this end, we are dedicated to exemplifying and providing inspiration for change.”
For more than 50 years, Pepperdine has been preparing teachers and administrators to work in K–12 schools in urban settings. Through the Urban fellows program, a selective training program in which students are integrated into local agencies, students are able to support underserved communities. Funds from the event will also contribute to GSEP’s three counseling clinics in West Los Angeles, Encino, and Irvine, which are staffed by GSEP’s master’s- and doctoral-level interns and offer support to the Pepperdine and external communities. In addition, GSEP’s on-site mental health clinic at the Union Rescue mission offers free counseling services to the homeless community in central Los Angeles. GSEP’s student therapists also offer counseling services to the children at the hope Gardens family Center in Sylmar, California, a transitional living and permanent supportive housing facility where up to 225 women and their children can escape the dangerous streets of Skid Row.
“COASTAL was a wonderful event that really reflected our sense of community,” said Weber. “So many participants told me how much they enjoyed the event, and especially valued that we were supporting children’s causes. It was a very special day, and the start of a great legacy.”