Getting Involved In Education Isn’t Just a Task for the Parents

Last week I went to my first Neighborhood Council meeting. In a surprise to me, no one bit my head off, cursed me, or drove me away.
I have heard countless horror stories about Neighborhood Councils, not just in Downtown but also throughout the city of Los Angeles. Yet last week’s Education Committee meeting injected me with a jolt of energy in my quest to find a school solution for my growing kids.

In the past couple of weeks I have noticed that I am no longer a mom to “Babies.” I am now: Susana – mother of two “Kids”. Isabella just turned four and Eliza is three. I feel the pressure mounting to find a school for them to attend while remaining residents of downtown. The never ending tick-tock in my head and ringing in my ears drove me to find the courage and attend last week’s meeting.
Danielle Duran, the Chairperson of the DLANC Education Committee, announced that this was an outreach meeting to residents with children in downtown L.A. I was the only parent there, which was good for me because I’m a talker and I didn’t have to share the floor but unfortunate for parents because the meeting was very productive. We all know that there has always been an population of children in downtown but do we really know the hardships that they are forced to face?
The resonant message last night was how do you balance the growing population of middle class parents and the educational needs of their children with the existing demographic of children that live in temporary housing and the missions, and are classified as Homeless.
I have posted information about the current school options for downtown residents and it is clear that they are overwhelmingly under-performing schools. That does not mean that they cannot be improved with the early involvement of parents — that includes those of you that have children as young as 18 months old — but how do we solve the problems that 9th Street Elementary has to endure? The school serves serve temporary students that are relocated to low-income housing, families that are homeless “temporarily”, families that only speak Spanish and survive at the federal poverty level — these are real issues that need to be addressed and tackled with tenacity and influence.

My children are growing older every day and part of the reason I decided to join blogdowntown is selfish: I want my kids to have a better education than I did.
There’s no sugar coating my motives for a better school in downtown L.A. The amazing thing is that I have met members of the “invisible” population in our neighborhood: the children of parents that don’t speak English and cannot communicate with local politicos or even be informed of DLANC meetings. They have reminded me of my childhood. My parents only spoke Spanish, were too poor to send me to after-school activities, were too paranoid or uninformed to allow me to go to the library- and yet I still yearned for a better school, for more books and greater opportunities.

Not everyone is a parent or wants to be a parent- it is a choice and a luxury. The undeniable is that the demographic of downtown L.A. is changing drastically and it needs the support of local residents, council members, school board members, and anyone willing to volunteer to help another child better their educational possibilities.
This column is an outreach effort. We need people to come forward and be informed, to help others understand the needs of residents and attain the goal of improving a human being’s life. Cut it any way you want, my child or the child living at the Union Rescue Mission, they both need to stop being the “invisible” residents of downtown L.A. and be considered in the future plans of the city.

Join the next DLANC education meeting on March 1st (location TBA, but keep your eye on the committee’s web page). Whether you are a parent, volunteer or someone rich in resource and/or influence- we need your help.

Published February 20, 2009

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