Alliance College-Ready Public Schools Opens A New State-Of-The-Art Community Center

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Alliance College-Ready Public Schools Opens A New State-Of-The-Art Community Center

Alliance College-Ready Public Schools hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony today for the Alliance Gertz-Merkin Howard Lappin Community Center.


September 7, 2022

Contact: Claire Totten | 805.901.0447



The Multi-Purpose Space Honors a Legend in Education and Advocacy, Howard Lappin

LOS ANGELES, CA, September 7, 2022 – Alliance College-Ready Public Schools hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony today for the Alliance Gertz-Merkin Howard Lappin Community Center, a new space built to serve the school communities of Alliance Gertz-Ressler and Richard Merkin 6-12 Complex, located in downtown Los Angeles. The community center will provide new classrooms for students as well as programming and services for parents and families.

“We are thrilled to provide a multi-functional space where our scholars, their families and all of our Alliance community in the Pico-Union area can learn and connect,” said Pablo Cesar Villavicencio, CEO of Alliance College-Ready Public Schools. “Expanding and improving public school infrastructure in a major city like Los Angeles is an incredible feat. Alliance is dedicated to building thriving school communities, and that means fostering deep connections to the neighborhoods where our scholars live. I’m beyond proud of how our Alliance team and community of families, educators, local businesses, and public servants came together to imagine and build a space that will benefit the entire community. The Howard Lappin Community Center will serve as a model for school communities across Los Angeles.”

Alliance made an essential investment to repurpose an existing two-story, 6,995 square foot warehouse into a beautiful multi-purpose community center as part of their ‘Thriving School Communities’ priority for the ‘22-23 school year. Construction began in September 2020. Despite many challenges, including COVID-19 construction guidelines, building material price increases, and historic preservation overlay, the project was successfully completed in time for the start of the school year.

The Alliance Gertz-Merkin Howard Lappin Community Center houses classrooms, an auditorium, an all-purpose room for meetings and events, and the new Parent Center, where families can access resources, engage in volunteer activities, and connect with a Parent Engagement Specialist. The facility is overseen by Alliance Richard Merkin Middle School Principal Shanayna Harnage and Alliance Gertz-Ressler High School Principal Gwen Braude.

The center represents a community-wide collaboration with families, students, educators, school leaders and community partners, including the North Area Development Neighborhood Council, Nature’s Brew Cafe, United University Church, and the Los Angeles Police Department.

“Since we are a 6-12 Complex with high enrollment in both our middle and high schools, space has always been a challenge,” said Alliance Richard Merkin Middle School Principal Shanayna Harnage. “This new community center represents a pivotal moment for us, because we can now provide an ideal, comfortable environment for our scholars to advance their studies and expand their minds.”

“This year, we introduced an Ethnic Studies course, open it to all scholars in grades 9-12. The course is held during three periods at the Lappin Community Center, and having the additional classroom space really made that possible,” said Alliance Gertz-Ressler High School Principal Gwen Braude. “Our scholars are predominantly from immigrant families, so being able to provide this learning opportunity for them is very exciting and impactful.”

Alliance has dedicated this community center and its namesake to a life-long educator, Howard Lappin. Lappin spent more than 25 years as a dedicated teacher and principal in Los Angeles. In 1989, he was principal of the James A. Foshay Learning Center, one of the lowest performing schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Under his leadership, Foshay became one of the top ten schools in the district and top 100 schools in the country. Mr. Lappin joined Alliance as the founding principal of Alliance Gertz-Ressler High School in 2004 then helped to establish Alliance Environmental Science and Technology High School in 2009. Mr. Lappin served as the Vice President and Founding Executive Director of Alliance from 2002 to 2004. Mr. Lappin also served as the Director of the Urban Learning Centers at the Los Angeles Educational Partnership (LAEP).  

“Today marks a pivotal moment in Alliance history,” said Howard Lappin, Founding Principal of Alliance Gertz-Ressler High School and former Vice President and Founding Executive Director of Alliance. “I founded Alliance Gertz-Ressler High School in 2004 with the fundamental belief that every student, regardless of their zip code, can succeed with support, guidance, and resources from qualified educators and the surrounding community. Alliance has always prioritized community engagement.  This center is living proof that when we invest in our communities, we build strong foundations for our scholars’ futures. Given the effects of COVID-19 on how we connect with one another, it’s especially important to have spaces where Alliance staff, scholars, and families can come together as a community. I’m so proud to be a part of this inspiring school network.” 

The community center is now open to Alliance Gertz-Ressler and Richard Merkin 6-12 Complex scholars and their families.

About Alliance College-Ready Public Schools

Alliance College-Ready Public Schools was founded in 2004 by a group of Los Angeles educators, civil rights activists, and community leaders on the belief that all children––regardless of ZIP code, income, ability, or background––are capable of achieving at high levels.

Despite great odds, Judy Ivie Burton, a long-time Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) educator and leader, as well as Howard Lappin, Founding Principal, and nationally recognized school leader, welcomed 150 ninth grade scholars at Alliance College-Ready Academy #1, currently known as Alliance Gertz-Ressler High School. 

Alliance is now one of the largest and most successful nonprofit public charter school networks in the nation, operating 26 high-performing, tuition-free middle and high schools in Los Angeles communities that are systematically oppressed. Alliance has a proven record of success for our nearly 13,000 scholars and nearly 18,000 alumni.

Though a majority of our incoming 6th graders enter Alliance reading below grade level, they eventually outperform California state and local districts on state standardized testing. Over ninety-five percent of Alliance scholars have graduated from high school and been accepted to a two-year or four-year college.

Our schools have been recognized among the best in the state and nation by the U.S. Department of Education, the California Department of Education, U.S. News & World Report, and the University of Southern California (USC) Rossier School of Education.

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