Growing up in Los Angeles, I took for granted the diversity that surrounded me. I lived in East LA, went to school in South Central, and went through cities like Brentwood on a regular basis. Seeing the difference in their schools and their homes, I knew that I wasn't going to settle for living in poverty my whole life and the only way I knew to get out was to study. I petitioned my mom and step dad to let me go to a magnet school and they agreed but only if I got myself to the school because they couldn't take me. I decided on "King Drew High Shcool of Medicine and Science" in the heart of Watts.
It had some amazing teachers. It was a magnet school that had about 70 students and we were housed in 5 or so bungalows. They all coordinated their lesson plans so that they synced together; for example if we were studying velocity formulas in Math we were experimenting with those vectors in Physics. It was not rare for students to stay at the school until almost 7 at night because we were studying or in one of the many academic clubs that were offered. Many of the teachers knew I took the bus home (at this point I was living in Eagle Rock, about 2 hours away by bus) so many of them took me home.
Those teachers hold a very dear place in my heart because they took me under their wing (rides home aside). They listened to me when I was having a bad day, they encouraged me to do better if I got a B in a test, and they introduced me to some amazing experiences. Our economics teacher taught us how to waltz, our drama teacher helped us put on a Shakespearean play with sonnets sung to Prince beats, our science teacher took us to Magic Mountain to explain the way Physics made those roller coasters possible.
School was a haven for me; it was a world that took me away from the crazy home life I was living. I am so grateful that those teachers didn't just teach from 8 -3; they made us part of their family. We even ate at some of their homes on the weekend and held study sessions. I wish that there was a school just like that for my kids but ... (that school is now housed in a 1.2 million dollar building and only one or two of the original teachers remain).
It saddens me to think that schools have so little funding now that teachers are funding special projects on their own and with minimal parental support. Our children are suffering from overworked teachers (classroom size is bigger and not enough funding for TA’s), Music and Art programs are being cut, and most parents are under so much economic stress that they are either not able to attend school functions (working more hours for a job that pays less, working jobs where they aren’t full-time employees so if they call out they won’t get paid for that day) or are just not interested in going.
It is time to wake up. Not just parents. Our children’s future affects EVERYBODY. I would feel the same if I wasn’t a mom to two boys. As a society we need to encourage one another to volunteer (afterschool programs, non-profit organizations), tutor, mentor, in other words GET INVOLVED in your community. Many of our schools have cut Art programs, if you are an artist maybe you could volunteer at a public school when you have time. If you are musician maybe you can offer to go to an after school program once a week and teach children to play an instrument. Any little bit would help. Changing the life of even one child should be enough, however, we should strive for changing and encouraging ALL our children. We can do this by offering them our time and support. It begins with us.
I would NOT like to read as much as I do if I didn’t have an English teacher that introduced me to the wonders of Shakespeare (he even let me play Titania in the play with the Prince beats—one of my favorite memories of school), I would not remember how it felt to attend my first musical if one of the teachers hadn’t taken a Saturday out of her life to take a handful of us to see “Les Misérables”, the list could go on and on.
YOU can be a part of a child’s “first”, the first time they played the perfect note on the piano, the first time they painted on a canvas, or the first time they touched wet clay. It is time for us to stress the importance of education to our youth because it will prove to be their shield as they get older. However, as with any type of change it must start from within first. Educate yourself, expect more from yourself and then get out there and encourage the next generation. EDÚCATE!
This piece was written as part of a campaign of LATISM (Latinos in Social Media), reinforcing the importance of education and the campaign ¡Edúcate¡ Es el momento de Univisión.
Esta pieza ha sido escrita como parte de una campaña de LATISM (Latinos in Social Media) reforzando la importancia de la educación y la campaña ¡Edúcate¡ Es el momento de Univisión.