Larson East SELACO High in Downey High

Alexis Gutierrez, Writer

Downey High has had a separate high school on its campus for decades called SELACO. Founded by a deaf man named Herb Larson in the late 1960s, it is under the Larson East PAU organization. SELCO is its own educational schooling; it is a regionalized program that provides deaf and hard of hearing services to many districts including Downey.


The SELACO Deaf and Hard of Hearing program (DHH) assists people from infanthood to high school. Overall, there are approximately 300 participants in the Larson program with about 25 students who are entirely enrolled in the SELACO program on the Downey High campus.


Priscilla Palos, 12, a former full-time SELACO student who is now integrated into mainstream Downey High classes, speaks through an interpreter on her new experiences since joining the SELACO program.


“I grew up in a hearing family – I was the only deaf person. We lived in a bad place [South Central] where I didn’t have a lot of help. I was very shy and I wasn’t involved, [but] now I’m in ASL club, I volunteer with sports medicine, and I’m in an advanced photo class,” Palos signed.  “If I stayed in South Central I wouldn’t go to college, and now I’m going to Gallaudet University.”


At SELACO, there are three teachers that teach a variety of classes that are similar to the general education classes taught to Downey students.


The major distinction between SELACO classes and Downey classes is that SELACO teachers teach in sign language themselves, in order to communicate directly with the students as opposed to a sign language interpreter that a deaf or hard of hearing student would have in a Downey class.


With SELACO being a regionalized program, they must provide to other districts outside of the  Selpa. The acronym Selpa stands for Special Education Local Plan Area. SEALCO needs an agency to be their service provider, and as of right low they are under Los Angeles County of Education.


Principal of SELACO High, Rebecca Piepho-Su, uses an interpreter, Lisa Hunt, the SELACO Interpreter Coordinator, to talk about SELACO’s concurrent plans to merge the separate schools together.


“Right now we are in the process of transitioning, and we’re very excited and blessed that Downey Unified School district has decided to accept us,” Piepho-Su signed. “Even though we are on their campus already we were looking for an agency or someone to support us-Downey was the one to, without a doubt, step up and accept us.”


SELACO provides services to mid-cities, there are three districts: Lynwood, Paramount. Bellflower and Downey and Montebello have their own selpa. If the districts have a deaf child and they do not have a program, they will contact SELACO and contract them.


Jocelyn Jimenez,12, a full time Selaco student at Downey High uses a interpreter to speak on her perspective while growing up with Selaco and a similar program.


“I’m the only deaf but my older cousin is deaf as well, truthfully I grew up oral and in middle school I learned sign language,” Jimenez said. “I was born deaf. When I was five, I got a calcular implant. When I was 10, I got my second one, and I got accepted to Gallaudet recently too.”


Gallaudet University is a deaf and hard of hearing complete assistance university; nearly all courses are tough in ASL, and with the exception of a few hearing students, it was specifically made for deaf and hard of hearing students who seek to further their education after high school.


Similarly to Priscilla Palos, Jocelyn Jimenez got accepted to Gallaudet University and they will both be moving to Washington DC.