If you live in Los Angeles and your child goes to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the chances that he/she will not be able to participate in a high school ceremony are high. Forget about them going to college and obtaining a bachelor’s degree.
For years, the second largest district with the most Latino students in the whole country has been fighting to increase their graduation rate that not too long ago reached 43%. Today, it is at 56%, according to Monica Garcia, LAUSD president.
This means that for every two students who starts elementary or kindergarten at the LAUSD, one would not be able to graduate from high school and probably putting an end to their education.
Currently, the district has over 700,000 students from which almost 75% are Latinos and 92% of the kids that are part of the English as a second language program speak Spanish (most of them from Mexico).
In other words, if you are an immigrant in Los Angeles and speak Spanish at home, your kids have a big risk of not finishing their academic goals and if we don’t do something about it, they may become part of that 50% that won’t graduate in the future.
The worst part is that the problem does not end there because after many congratulations for the students who finally graduate, less than 50% will finish with a bachelor’s degree.
This situation reduced the opportunity for our children to become a doctor, engineer, teacher or whatever career they want to pursue because out of 10 kids that start school today, only 2.5 may end with a bachelor degree. As a Latino parent this is not acceptable.
But what should we do: blame the teacher, the district or ourselves?
Probably a better question may be: Can we afford to keep blaming and pointing fingers while our children keep dropping out of school and in a worst case scenario ending pregnant, in jail or drugs?
I’ve had the opportunity to cover and follow the LAUSD for years and until now, there is not one board member, teacher or administrator that hasn’t said that they will do the impossible to increase the graduation rates, but so far and after 10 years we still have the same ups and downs.
Should we wait until the school district does things right?
Recently, I was at the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles where dignitaries inaugurated the Education Window, an office where parents will have the opportunity to get involved in their kids’ education and help them to accomplish their academic goals.
In the window they have preschool, elementary, intermediate, high school and college information and, according to the Mexican Consul David Figueroa, every day close to 800 people visit the facility, hoping they will be interested in participating in their kids’ education.
Also, one person will be there providing information on how to get parents involved, the options parents may have to get their kids into programs that will help children to not get behind and how to encourage them to continue all the way; to finish their higher education.
The day of the inauguration, five aggressive advocators for the education delivered their speech and almost every single one of them had a story of sacrifice and story where they remembered their parents encouraging them to go to school; stories where they had to live with extreme limitations and sometimes work at an early age.
They didn’t speak about the good or the bad school system they went during their first years of school. They remembered the sacrifices, the support and the work their parents did for them to finish college; those images and memories always fed their will to continue their education until they finished with a Bachelor degree on their hands.
David Figueroa grew up in Sonora while his dad was working as a bracero in San Jose, California. With the support of his mother, he obtained his master degree in business administration and years later he went back to San Jose, California as a Consul representing his country.
Now, he is the consul in Los Angeles and he is the one that after a couple months leading the office realized the risk that LAUSD was taking so he launched the Education Window.
“We know the education is the way to empower our community and this is what we are going to do here, but we need your help”, the consul challenged the parents to use the Education Window not only for their kids’ benefit, but for the whole family and community.
The stories continued the rest of the evening, all of them inspired and praising their parents for what they are today.
So if we do not want to see our children as another statistic we need to get involved in our children’s education. Otherwise, probably in 10 years we will continue to talk about the bad situation of the school district still is. It does not matter how poor we are, where we come from or what language we speak, if our kids see the sacrifice we are doing to put food on the table and a roof over their head and hear our words of encouragement for them to finish school all the time.
With those memories, I believe our children will have enough to continue and not only to finish high school but college.
If you do not know how to do it or where to start, go to the Education Window at the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles. I am sure they will give you enough support to make the difference in your child’s future.
Agustin Duran is an editor at Latinocalifornia.com and has been a journalist for the last 15 years in LA