The Equity & Justice Institute

Serving the Greater Good

Crossroads School was founded in 1971 on the heels of the civil rights movement, anti-war protests and a growing social consciousness about systemic inequities.
In keeping with Crossroads’ founding commitment to “the greater community,” the School has long been at the forefront of developing transformative community partnerships and programs. Crossroads’ earliest years prioritized community service, conducted not just by students, but by the School itself. This practice was formalized in the 1980s through the idea of institutional service and the development of P.S. Arts and, two decades later, PS Science, both of which brought hands-on student instruction and teacher training to underfunded Title I schools.

2018 saw the launch of the Crossroads School Equity & Justice Institute, a groundbreaking, comprehensive platform to educate students on major social justice issues and utilize the School’s considerable resources to find impactful solutions to the world’s great challenges. Learn more about the Institute here and read on for some of the School’s key milestones in the area of equity and justice.
“I think the best way for independent schools to be embraced by their communities is to become an active participant in them. As long as independent schools serve only their own, regardless of what else they do, they will be perceived as elitist institutions, gated and moated and inaccessible. To be a genuine part of the community, independent schools must use their extraordinary resources and networks to get out into the community and make a difference.”

—Roger Weaver, former Headmaster of Crossroads School

Serving the Greater Community

Key Milestones

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  • 1970s

Crossroads School is founded in 1971 with an inaugural class of 32 seventh- and eighth-grade students. Its Philosophy includes a commitment “to the greater community” and a charge “to promote social, political and moral understanding, and to instill a respect for the humanity and ecology of the earth.”

Community Service is established as a requirement for graduation long before it became an expectation in many schools. Students serve as tutors at Head Start centers and the School earns a 1976 Santa Monica Westside Volunteer Bureau Distinguished Service Award for its “innovative Community Service Program,” Adopt-a-Grandparent.

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  • 1980s

In 1990, Crossroads underwrites the cost for Crossroads’ choral director, Thea Kano, to start a chorus program at Palms Middle School. Two years later, Crossroads formalizes its institutional outreach with the establishment of the Crossroads Community Foundation (CCF). Helmed by then-headmaster Paul Cummins, the mission of CCF is to develop and implement programs to serve the greater community. The School also develops a key partnership with the local nonprofit One Voice, which provides “goods, services and opportunities to the underprivileged.” Today, the Crossroads community continues to volunteer with and fundraise for One Voice and the families it serves.

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  • 1990s

In 1990, CCF launches P.S. Arts with initial funding from the Herb Alpert Foundation and Crossroads School. P.S. Arts provides children in underserved Los Angeles public schools with life-enhancing music, visual arts and drama programs that had been essentially eliminated due to budget constraints.

In 1993, Paul Cummins steps down as Crossroads headmaster, staying on as president of CCF to establish the New Visions Foundation, whose mission is to found schools based on the Crossroads philosophy and provide substantial financial aid. New Visions—today known as the Coalition for Engaged Education—launches New Roads School in 1995 and continues to be an active partner in the founding of new progressive schools, such as the much-heralded Camino Nuevo School located near downtown Los Angeles.

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  • 2000s

Enormously successful, P.S. Arts becomes an independent nonprofit in 2003. Today, it continues to provide high-quality arts education to nearly 25,000 students in California’s most underserved public schools throughout Los Angeles County and into the Central Valley.

In 2004, CCF is reconstituted as the Crossroads Community Outreach Foundation (CCOF). With then-Headmaster Roger Weaver as president and then-Director of Institutional Advancement Gennifer Yoshimaru as vice president, the first two years are spent researching, identifying and evaluating a wide variety of potential partnerships and programs.

In 2006, CCOF launched two ambitious initiatives:
  1. The Saint Anne Support Council, in partnership with neighboring Title I school Saint Anne, enables Saint Anne’s founding policy of “exercising a preferential option for the poor” and providing those students with a quality education. Over the next few years, the Saint Anne Support Council becomes a consultative board for Saint Anne School and raises more than $900,000 in support of the mission to serve the working poor.

  2. Modeled after P.S. Arts, the new program PS Science is designed to provide an engaging and exploration-based science experience to young children at local, underserved public schools where there is no science instruction in the early grades. In addition, PS Science provides both the materials, mentorship and training necessary for teachers to sustain the classroom program after two years.

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  • 2010s

In 2010, Saint Anne School partners with CCOF; students in Crossroads’ classical music conservatory, EMMI; and SOL-LA Music to provide music education to underserved children. As the Saint Anne School Support Council grows stronger and more independent, CCOF scales back its involvement.

In 2013, with ongoing financial support and resources from Crossroads School, PS Science expands to serve 625 students and employ 24 teachers in three local Title I schools. Five years later, PS Science grows large enough to become its own separate nonprofit organization. Today, PS Science serves 2,000 students at nine Title I elementary schools and provides science-instruction training and support for classroom teachers.

In 2018, the Crossroads School Equity & Justice Institute is launched. Derric J. Johnson is appointed the Founding Director of the Institute. Absorbing and expanding the mandate of CCOF, the groundbreaking program is established to empower students and community members to take meaningful action on local, national and global issues through a variety of transformative educational curricula, partnerships and initiatives. In addition, the Equity & Justice Institute will serve as an incubator for future initiatives that serve the greater good, perhaps eventually spinning off other nonprofit organizations similar to P.S. Arts and PS Science.

Early work of the Institute includes organizing and moderating an interfaith panel in collaboration with the Guibord Center and co-sponsoring the 2019 conference “Rise Up for Humanity: Justice for the Forgotten” with USC and the LA County Human Relations Commission. The Institute’s Equity & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series, which is free and open to the public, brings renowned speakers to campus, including Holocaust survivor Zenon Neumark and "How to Be an Antiracist" author and historian Ibram X. Kendi.

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  • 2020s

The speaker series continues to bring notable activists, scholars and authors to give virtual and in-person talks. Speakers include "White Fragility" author Robin DiAngelo; community organizer Dolores Huerta; poet Nikki Giovanni; and political strategist Ana Navarro.

The Institute hosts a Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School® site on the Crossroads campus, a six-week summer literacy and cultural enrichment program for 50 students of color and their families from the Pico neighborhood, beginning in 2021.