Assemblymember Rendon visits school children

My inspiration to run for office was to improve education.

Before my time in the Assembly, I worked in early childhood education. I saw first-hand the impact educating young kids had on their health, their families, and their futures.

Then the recession hit, and funding for early childhood education dried up. K-12 and higher education funding was slashed.

I went to Sacramento to lobby lawmakers to get that funding back, so our children wouldn’t be left behind.

When that didn’t work, I decided to run for office.

I’m proud to say we’ve made huge strides when it comes to supporting education in California.

In the state’s 2019-2020 budget, California is:

  • Making its highest-ever investment in K-14 classes.
  • Spending $90 million dollars to recruit, retain and re-train qualified teachers.
  • Increasing funding for special education by nearly 20%.
  • Freezing tuition hikes at California universities, and opening up space for more students.
  • Offering two years of free community college for first-time students.

These investments prove that for California, education is more than a top priority.

It’s a right for everyone who calls California home.

In this edition of the R-Guide, we’ll introduce you to local schools, educators and nonprofits that are helping strengthen and expand education in Southeast LA.

Dr. Maria Covarrubias

College Dreams Become Reality

Applying to college can be stressful. For Dr. Maria Covarrubias, applying to college changed her life.

While seeking help with college applications, Maria says she was advised by a counselor to stick to applying to certain schools, because those were the only universities that would accept her.

“I remember sitting there. Numb,” said Dr. Covarrubias. “She had no knowledge of my GPA or my ability. She made a decision about my future based on what I looked like and what she believed my potential was.”

Now a Harvard and USC alum, Dr. Covarrubias is determined to give students the encouragement she wished she had that day.

Today, she partners with Lynwood Unified School District in a program called EdShape, alongside her colleague Alma Betancourt.

“Students believe that they are incapable or unworthy of attending top colleges,” she said.

“We perform several activi­ties to shift their mindset.”

EdShape exposes students to a college-bound environ­ment, where they meet with alumni from top universi­ties, and receive guidance in SAT preparation and college applications. Dr. Covarrubias says this work is especially important in Southeast LA.

“Often times, Southeast LA communities are over­looked,” said Dr. Covarru­bias. “High ranking univer­sities don’t normally come to these communities to actively recruit.”

EdShape’s students recent­ly received admissions to world-class universities, including UCLA, UC Berkeley and Columbia. By showing students that attending top schools is at­tainable, EdShape is helping to change Southeast L.A one student at a time.

“Your zip code does not determine your potential or your future,” she said.

Teacher teaching mindfulness

Local Children Learn Emotional Skills in Mindfulness Lab

Children deserve a safe place, a place to be themselves.

At Melbourne Elementary School in Lakewood, that’s the Mindfulness Lab.

The Lab is a place with learn­ing materials, games, bean bag chairs and books with titles like “Hands Are Not For Hitting.”

“Our kids deal with trauma,” said Melbourne Principal Karina Martir. “We knew that mental health is super important to our students and our community.”

At Melbourne, kids learn that emotions are normal, and it isn’t wrong to feel angry or sad. They just need to learn how to handle those emotions.

Mentoring teaches them they can demonstrate excellence, and counseling shows how to learn from behavioral mistakes, instead of suffering.

There are fewer fights and fewer suspensions, Martir said.

The school had services to teach those things, but now they also have the Mindfulness Lab, funded by a grant by the Barona Band of Mission Indians. Assemblymember Rendon nominated Melbourne for the grant.

It’s fun, has welcoming staff, and students like going there. It’s their safe place.

Students acting at BRIDGE Theatre

BRIDGE Theatre Projects Brings International Education, Understanding to Local Classrooms

For hundreds of students across Lynwood Unified School District, learning doesn’t stop when the bell rings at the end of the day. After school, they are busy writing plays that will be heard around the world.

“It’s our goal to have their voices taken where they elsewhere wouldn’t be heard” said Joe Quintero, co-founder of BRIDGE (Building Relationships and Inspiring Dialogue through Global Exchange) Theatre Project.

In the BRIDGE program, instructors train elementary and middle school students on all aspects of theatre, including playwriting, acting, and design. Students collectively write and rehearse a play before performing it in front of the community. Lynwood students have written and performed more than 100 plays in the five years BRIDGE has partnered with Lynwood Unified.

“Theatre provides 21st-century skills,” explained Quintero. “Public speaking, critical thinking, collaborating, those kind of things.”

BRIDGE also helps connect local students with young people across the world. Plays written by students in Lynwood are sent to international theatre partners for performances. Additionally, local students will perform plays written by children from as far away as Ecuador and Nepal.

Recently, several students from Abbott Elementary School were able to travel to the Ubumuntu International Theatre Festival in Kigali, Rwanda. They performed a play they had written, The Wall, about two families who decide to end their prejudices and tear down a wall between their homes.

“Our Lynwood students were able to watch their story come to life . . . Their play was performed by kids in Kigali, and they got to perform in a play written by BRIDGE kids in Kigali,” said Quintero.

Quintero says this cultural exchange is the most valuable part of the program, when children realize how much they share with kids across the world.

“Even though they’re coming from different places, they really connected with each other,” said Quintero of Bell.

EVENTS

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