Friday, September 4, 2009

Mendez Learning Center: Old Dreams Inspire New Ones

Last weekend, I was joined by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LAUSD School Board President Monica Garcia, HENAAC and school administrators at a celebration for the Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center, a brand new high school in Boyle Heights. It was a profound experience to gather with parents, youth and Sylvia Mendez (pictured above), who in 1946 was only a little girl when her parents, Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez, filed a lawsuit to end the segregation of Mexican children in schools in Santa Ana. The Mendez v. Westminster case paved the wave for Brown v. Board of Education. The Mendez Learning Center is named after these trailblazers and is the first high school to be built in Boyle Heights in decades. During my time on the school board, I set my sites on building a new high school in the Eastside to relieve overcrowding at Roosevelt High School, which at the time was one of the most overcrowded schools in the Western United States. The new campus will receive students from Roosevelt, which will allow both schools to be on a traditional school-year calendar instead of what I consider a vastly inferior year-round schedule. As Board President, I oversaw the building of several new schools and took a stand to not approve any new school in the district until we had a commitment to build a new high school in Boyle Heights. Beyond getting the school built, I wanted a campus dedicated to math and science, to allow kids on the Eastside the opportunity to pursue careers in the undermanned high-tech fields that pay the kind of salaries that can really transform lives. Thankfully, the Mendez Learning Center is styled as a college campus and houses two schools, one in math and science and the other in technology and engineering. With the access to many high tech firms and city agencies right across the First Street bridge, it is my hope that kids attending Mendez will have hands-on internship opportunities throughout the school year to inspire them and to learn that all their dreams are truly possible.