U-Pass Program offers Manual Arts High School juniors free Metro rides

SOUTH LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A partnership is enabling some high school students in Los Angeles to use Metro public transportation for free as part of an effort to help the students stay in school.

Manual Arts High School students rode on the bus for free as part of the new pilot program giving hundreds of 11th graders free access to any L.A. Metro line they need.

The U-Pass Program is a special partnership between the Los Angeles Unified School District and Metro.

A $200,000 grant is helping to fund the free rides.

"Students who can ride the bus with access, without economic hardship will come to school more frequently," said Dr. George McKenna, a LAUSD board member. "They will graduate more frequently; they will drop out less."

The U-Pass Program is available to all juniors at Manual Arts High. Nearly 400 students are eligible and for many of them it's a huge help for their families.

"Financially, it's a bit hard because I use four buses every day, and it's four dollars every single day," Manual Arts High School student Jessica Mateo said. "... I have college classes and that's four more dollars."

The ultimate goal is to be able to offer free transit to all LAUSD students, but that would take massive amounts of funding.

Officials say by targeting juniors, those close to getting their driver's licenses, they're teaching the next generation about the benefits of mass transit and helping prepare them for a brighter future.

LAUSD is looking for more funding and partnerships in hopes of expanding the U-Pass Program to another school next year.
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