GPSN Outreach Manager featured in La Comadre

A mother was worried about her only son’s education, even though he is thriving at a charter school in the Northeast San Fernando Valley after languishing at another campus for several years. 

His mother had pulled him from his previous school after she discovered he was being taught the same curriculum for the second year in a row.

He’s now being challenged and supported every day in class but his place in middle school depends on being selected in a lottery. If his number isn’t picked, his mother would face the daunting task of finding another good educational fit for her son.

I met the mother at a community meeting in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, one of 10 areas where my organization, Great Public Schools Now, is committed to increasing the number of high-quality campuses by making grants to public schools of all types.

Like many of the parents I met while canvassing the area, the mother was deeply invested in her child’s academic success, desperate for more high-quality educational options and fearful that her child wouldn’t get the education he needs to have a bright future.

Her anxiety was a reminder of why my work with Great Public Schools Now is also a personal mission. Growing up in Dinuba, a small farming town about an hour north of Fresno, I went to a system where there was only one middle and high school and I saw first-hand how the lack of quality options can lead to fewer opportunities.

Even though I was a straight A student at Washington Intermediate School, I wasn’t placed in the only 8th math course that was offered one semester. My family didn’t have the option of moving me to another campus, so my parents took time off from their jobs to come to Washington to advocate for my placement in the course.

I eventually did get into math class, which led me to Advanced Placement courses and other rigorous offerings that helped me get into Princeton University.

Unfortunately, I was one of a handful of students from my graduating class who went to college. There are variety reasons why my classmates didn’t pursue higher education, but many of them didn’t go to college because their K-12 system didn’t serve them well. Some belonged in honors classes with me but didn’t get a seat because they didn’t have the family to advocate on their behalf. Others didn’t get the support they needed from teachers and staff. But all of them deserved the same chances I got.

I believe that if there had been more high-quality schools that parents could choose from in Dinuba, more of my classmates would have set foot and graduated from a college campus. And that’s why I’m so interested in hearing from community members about their experiences with schools in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Their perspectives tell us what is working on campus and what needs to be improved to make sure that all students get the same opportunity to fulfill their potential.

 

Oct 20, 2016

Cynthia Kanagui, Great Public Schools Now Outreach Manager