Students voice concerns, solutions
“You fit the description of someone we’re looking for . . .”
“Congratulations. You’ve made it to UCLA, but you’re having trouble sleeping because you’re used to sirens and helicopters.”
These are just a few of the realities African American and Latino students say they face in a typical “day” in South Los Angeles.
These revelations of what young people feel came out during a three-hour youth forum held last Thursday evening at the offices of the Community Coalition. The young people—members of South Central Youth Empowered Through Action (S.C.Y.E.A.) held the event to release the results of a survey they conducted and to seek solutions to the problems uncovered.
The survey of 6,000 high school students from Crenshaw, Dorsey, Fremont, Jordan, Locke, Manual Arts, and Washington Prep was particularly startling for two key reasons, said Cheryl Grills, chair of the psychology department at Loyola Marymount University. Grills has been working behind the scenes with the Community Coalition since its inception.
“Every time I share the study with colleagues, they go into shock,” explained Grills to those attending the forum. “When they hear how many students voluntarily participated in the survey, they are amazed. It’s not common (to have so many responses). We’re happy as social scientists, if we get 200 or 300 people.”
The second shocking fact is the seriousness of the problems youth face in South Los Angeles, added Grills.
“We did not expect the magnitude or such clarity or the fact that the problems weighed so heavily on them that it caused the youth to feel depressed.”
In fact, the majority (53 percent) of the 6,000 high schoolers surveyed reported symptoms commonly associated with depression, according to the survey results.
Grills said at a follow-up summit, two-thirds of youth invited (52) gave responses to questions that met criteria for clinical levels of depression.
Among the other top findings in the survey are:
* Only 27 percent of students felt safe at school;
* Less than half (46 percent) feel their school prepares them for college or a high-paying job after graduation;
* Preparation for the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) was one of the top three concerns, and 41 percent were neutral or disagreed that their schools prepared them to pass the CAHSEE;
* Sixty-five percent of students want schools to offer more classes in African American and Latino studies;
* And finally, when asked about the “push-out/dropout” crisis, 73 percent of students knew someone who had dropped out since ninth grade, 30 percent knew six or more people who had dropped out, and only one-third (28 percent) felt their school was focused on solving the dropout crisis.
During the Thursday forum, the leadership and creative potential of the students was evident. Not only did members of S.C.Y.E.A. plan the event but in the breakout sessions, they led the discussions and prodded their peers to come up with potential solutions and action steps to move the solutions forward.
In one breakout session about safety, the young people created a game called Safetopoly that eloquently depicted some of the perils they face on the daily trek from home to school.
“I got the idea from brain storming, explained 16-year-old Luis Garcia, the game’s chief creator.
“We wanted something fun and interactive, and someone said monopoly. Since the topic was safety, I came up with Safetopoly,” said the Fremont High School sophomore.
During the game, students like Mykel Crumble rolled a giant die (made of a corrugated box) and had to safely bypass liquor stores, police officiers, jail, the school’s physical education field, and random chance acts, in order to make it safely back home. On the high end of the game, there was college which one of the four youngsters achieved. On the low end was death, to which Crumble and one student succumbed.
“The game was sort of cool. It is sort of what happens—some of it was real, but some was not,” said Crumble, a 16-year-old Manual arts student, who is a member of the S.C.Y.E.A club on her campus. She joined because she wanted to help improve her school. “I want to go to college; I don’t want to fall through the cracks.”
The goal of the survey is the same as their organization, explained S.C.Y.E.A. members Mariela Martinez, 16, and Joseph Walker, 16—they want to make sure the student voice is heard, when people talk about improving their schools; they want to make sure the student voice is heard, when it comes to teacher quality; and they want to break down the stereotype that students are not motivated, are lazy, and just want to act out.
Perhaps Manual Arts student Joshua Ham said it best when he attempted to walk the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color in California through a day in his school life.
He talked of the police cars around the campus, the helicopter flying overhead, the gates around the campus, searches by school security guards and cops patrolling the grounds. . . .
“How can we truly be expected to achieve at a high academic level when we’re treated more like we’re in prison than in school?” he asked.
T.H.E Clinic unveiled its new mobile healthcare van on the Dorsey High School campus Wednesday. Outfitted with two complete treatment rooms and staffed by a physician assistant an/or a nurse practitioner, the van targets teens as well as the general public, and will be open Monday and Wednesday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. at Dorsey High, 3537 Farmdale Ave.; Tuesday and Friday from 9 a.m.-6p.m. at Crenshaw High (5010 11th Ave., Los Angeles); and Thursday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Lennox Library, 4359 Lennox Blvd., Lennox).
A standing-room only crowd of at least 100 community residents and activists turned out for a meeting to hear how the Los Angeles City Planning Department can help continue the revitalization of the Western Avenue Corridor between King Boulevard and Foshay Learning Center.
Jamiah Lindsey (second from left) and his partner Robert Molina (third from left) pictured above with their NFTE coach Owen Brown (far left) were one of three semi-finalists in the Network for Teaching Entreprenership (NFTE) contest held at the Downtown Business Magnet High School May 13. The duo will now go on to the Regional Youth Business Plan competition June 3 at USC.
There they will have the opportunity to win $1,500 in scholarships and advance to the NFTE national finals in New York City.
Students from Locke High School, shown above making their presentation on developing organic leaders, were part of a panel of young experts presenting original research on inner city education.
Called the Council of Youth Research, the program is operated by UCLA’S Institute for Democracy, Education and Access, and gives high school students the training and opportunity to produce university-level research. Locke was joined by teams from Crenshaw, Manual Arts, Roosevelt and Wilson.