Yet three years later, that same teacher helped Figures get a full scholarship to Cal State Long Beach, which led her to a career in finance. "There were kids smarter than me, for sure. But she knew if she didn't go to bat for me, nobody else would."
There were complaints from the schools they left behind that the permit program siphoned off Watts' brightest minds. But the participants can now admit, without feeling like traitors, that they appreciated the more cerebral vibe at Birmingham High.
"You could win a battle with your mind, rather than fighting it out. People respected you for being smart and analytical and inquisitive," Figures said. "That was considered 'nosy' where we come from."
When Monise Kelly, class of '77, began researching schools for her two children, she remembered how, during the time she was bused, there had been "one black family" that lived in Encino and sent their kids to Birmingham High.
Their home became the bused-in students' refuge. "They kind of adopted us," she recalled. "It was the place you felt safe....I wanted to be that family."
So Kelly bought a home in Woodland Hills and sent her children to Taft High. She joined the booster club, ran the snack bar and became a fixture on the suburban campus — where buses still roll up every day carrying hundreds of inner-city transfers.