Until 1905, LA High was Los Angeles’ first and only high school. Construction of this monumental school started on July 19, 1872 on its first location in the downtown area, near First and Broadway. It opened its doors in 1873 and graduated its first class in 1875. The class consisted of only 7 members: Yda Addis, Henry O’Melveny, Jessie Peel, Lillie Miliken, Addie Gates, Henry Leck, and Mary Thomas. Later in 1890, LA high moved to its second location in downtown on Fort Moore Hill, off of North Hill St. and present-day Cesar Chavez Ave. However, it wasn’t until 1917 when LA High set its resilient roots in our neighborhood with 1,937 students.
LA High also stood as one of the west’s progressive high schools in America. Its first administration established the idea of classical culture as the foundation of the new school. Culture studies would become the backbone of the rigorous curriculum, with an emphasis on the Classics, English, History, and Mathematics; however, scientific study and investigation would later become its defining feature. The school also promoted postgraduate work, which evolved into the Los Angeles Junior College in February 1912. By 1916, a third of all junior college students in California were enrolled in Los Angeles Junior College.
Another impressive achievement is LA High’s very active student body. In 1879, the student body created the Star and Crescent literary society to promote the growth of its social organizations. As small debates developed, the Star and Crescent evolved into the Los Angeles Lyceum Debating Society in 1894. In addition to The Lyceum, several student run newspapers and magazines were created. The Blue and White Daily, the school’s newspaper, was once a daily 4 page newspaper maintained and paid for by student subscriptions. Later in 1912, the newspaper became a weekly paper and finally in 1962 after great debate, they dropped the “Daily” and became The Blue and White, a monthly published newspaper still running today. In conjunction with the core values of LA High, students also published El Romano, a newspaper in Spanish and Nuntius, a newspaper that published articles in English, Latin, and occasionally in Greek in the late 1920s and 1930s. (Samples of The Lyceum, El Romano, Nuntius and The Blue and White can be seen online in LA High’s library website at http://lashs.org/Archives/index.htm.)
LA High students, Romans to be exact, remarkably continued their activities beyond the boundaries of their school. In 1922, students voted to buy the land across the street and build a memorial park to honor the alumni and class members involved in the World War I. They raised $6,000 and in 1923 bought the land to commemorate the twenty fallen classmates. In addition to establishing the Memorial Park, the students commissioned a stained glass window with the names of the fallen classmates and an inscription hoping for “peace among nations” in the library built on the site.
Today, LA High’s mission is to produce “self-directed, life-long learners by providing [their] diverse student body with the skills they need to become critical thinkers, collaborative workers, effective communicators, and technologically literate individuals.” The school continues to promote active students not only in their school community but also in the community as a whole. Its small learning communities (SLCs), HERO Academy, REACH, Math and Science Magnet, and Global Team, each develop excellence and commitment to empowering their students like those that came before them.
To become involved, join their principal Helena Yoon-Fontamillas at Coffee with the Principal held every first Friday of each month.
I hope after reading the history of our beloved school, you too will join me in saying: