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Building a Community School Together

May 31, 2018


The groundbreaking for the new Stella Middle Charter Academy campus. From left: Hrag Hamalian, Executive Director, Bright Star Schools; Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; Rosalyn Adams, Secretary, Baldwin Bethany Community Development Corporation; Senior Pastor L.A. Kessee, Bethany Baptist Church of West Los Angeles; Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove; Rodman Miles, Executive Director and CEO, Baldwin Bethany Community Development Corporation.

By Saman Bravo-Karimi, Chief Business Officer, Bright Star Schools.

In 2003, Bright Star began as a single school, Stella Middle Charter Academy, for the West Adams, Baldwin Village, and Crenshaw communities of Los Angeles. From the beginning, we worked together with community members and stakeholders to build a school that would meet students’ needs.

We’ve built a great education for our students together. But our Stella students needed a permanent school site campus that could accommodate all grade levels. For the past 15 years, we’ve had two campuses for our Stella students, with our fifth and sixth graders at a site in West Adams and our seventh and eighth graders being bussed 45 minutes to another site.

The good news is that Stella Middle Charter Academy will soon have a permanent home for all students.

On Saturday May 19, Bethany Baptist Church of West Los Angeles -- the organization that is leasing Bright Star the land for Stella’s new campus -- celebrated their 60th anniversary in conjunction with Stella’s groundbreaking.

It was an uplifting day, with attendance and remarks from leaders Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove; Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; Council President Herb Wesson; Mary Darks, President, Baldwin Village Community In Action Inc.; and LAUSD board member George McKenna.

That morning showed the importance of authentic community engagement. As Hrag Hamalian, Executive Director for Bright Star Schools, said in a TNTP post: “We went into this process committed to listening. We never claimed to know everything. Instead, we wanted to be open and transparent, and find ways to give community stakeholders, parents, and kids a voice in the school system. So, we said yes to every meeting and did whatever we could to reach people,” Hrag says.

Kerman Maddox, Managing Partner with Dakota Communications -- who worked with Bright Star to secure a permanent location for the new Stella school -- told TNTP, “[Hrag] showed up. [...] He listened to what people said. He didn’t go into the community with preconceived notions.”


Artistic renderings of the new Stella school were on hand to show community members what their school will look like, including a three-story school with 21 classrooms, a large multipurpose room with a full basketball court, and outdoor playground space surrounded by trees.

This incredible space for the community’s middle school children is only possible because of the support of and our partnership with community members and organizations.