1. Tell us about your community school. How has the community school strategy impacted your students, families, and community?
Our school is the first new high school to be built in East Los Angeles in the last 85 years. When our teachers submitted their educational proposal plan, they knew that they could not shift student bodies into a new building without addressing their students’ needs. They included the community school strategy into their plan and it has created a space where students and families feel that they can come in and share space with the school.
2. Why do you do what you do?
I am a product of my community and I was very lucky that a teacher took me under her arm and guided me towards a college education. The rest of my friends in high school did not have the same opportunity and I was aware of how privileged I was to have this support. At my current school, every single student is supported. We tell them, “We want you to graduate with a high school diploma in one hand and a college acceptance letter in the other and together, were going to make it happen.”
3. What is the most rewarding part of being a coordinator?
My students really understand the concept of what a community school is supposed to be. We share the same sentiment, “When you are good, I am good, when you are down, we are all down.” It shifts the narrative to be inclusive and to help your fellow student. The alumni students support me to engage our current high school students to build and maintain community.
4. Can you tell me a story about a student, family or community that you directly impacted as a coordinator?
In 2014, a student was accepted into her dream college, but she was scared that her parents were not going to let her attend the school. When she called her father, he said to her, “you need to figure this out on your own.” Together, we addressed her father’s fears of being able to pay for tuition and now she is currently in her third year of college and returns every summer to help us with our mentorship program.
5. What are your biggest challenges?
This job is one of the most fulfilling jobs, but it is also the most emotionally draining. We deal with so much trauma and passionately want to meet the needs of our students. At the end of the day, we do not leave our students at school, we take them home with us and think of them all the time.
6. What’s one quote that you live by?
“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world”- Paulo Freire