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Week 25: the bus ride

Whenever the song “Show Goes On” by Lupe Fiasco comes on the radio when we’re in the car, my teammates/roommates and I always say it reminds us of our students.

Alright, already, the show goes on
All night ’til the morning, we dream so long
Anybody ever wonder when they would see the sun go
Just remember when you come up, the show goes on

So no matter what you been through, no matter what you into
No matter what you see when you look outside your window
Brown grass or green grass, picket fence or barbed wire
Never ever put them down, you just lift your arms higher

Raise ’em ’til your arms tired let ’em know you here
That you struggling, survivin’, that you gon’ persevere
Yeah, ain’t nobody leavin’, nobody goin’ home
Even if they turn the lights out, the show is goin’ on

I listened to this song over and over again and just stared out the window of the school bus on Friday and did some introspective thinking. We had just left The Getty Museum, which is an art museum located in West Los Angeles. I was coming down from a “feel good” high because my students thoroughly enjoyed the field trip and being out of Watts for the day, which of course boosted my mood because I’m happy when others around me are happy. My favorite moment of the day was when my students were overlooking the coastline and were so amazed and happy to see the beach.

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“Ms. Liz, look!!! It’s the ocean!”

They live in California, but that doesn’t mean they get to see the beauties of the Golden State everyday. Getting out of Watts for a day doesn’t mean they’ll get out forever and get to see the nature they saw at The Getty on a daily basis.

So no matter what you been through, no matter what you into; no matter what you see when you look outside your window, just lift your arms higher. But do they have the motivation to get out? Do they believe they can? One reason why this year has been so hard is because if most Markham students had the perseverance that is detailed in this song to “get out of the ghetto”, they would when they get older. There’s so much we can’t control in this environment — gangs, fights, bullying, classroom behavior, etc., but a student CAN control his or her life by having faith that they will get somewhere in life and take those right steps. Education is key to getting out.

As the bus passed Westwood, I thought about my teammate Ricky’s story. Ricky is a first-generation American-Latino and the only person in his immediate family that has graduated from college. His parents only speak Spanish, but from what he’s told me his family has a strong bond, which helped get him to where he is today.

Ricky’s a lot like these students (he even talks like them). He was born and raised in Boyle Heights, which is another community City Year serves in Los Angeles. From there, he made it to UCLA. Just last week, he received some great news: he was accepted to UCLA’s Graduate School of Education, which is a top-ranked program in the US. His story gives me hope for my Latino students. That you struggling, survivin’, that you gon’ persevere.

On Sunday, I completed a bucket list item: Go to the Museum of Tolerance.

The one exhibit that really got to me was one called “Para Todos Los Niños”. The exhibit was about segregated schools in the West and Southwest; Latinos (although they were all called Mexicans even if they weren’t) had to go to Mexican School. A historic court case centered in Orange County, Mendez vs. Westminster, ruled this was unlawful in 1946, which paved the way for the Brown v. Board of Education decision. What astonished me about this exhibit is not that this happened (people suck), but that I never really learned about this in school. We’re taught so much about black civil rights, but other minority groups suffered too. Seems like I was ignorant about my own state’s history.

Anyways, the exhibit said this:

“The wonderful legacy of the Mendez case is diminished if we don’t confront the injustices we see today. Latinos are now the most segregated group in our public school system. Less than half of all Latino students receive the support necessary to graduate from high school. Only ten percent graduate from college. What can we do to fight these inequalities? What will be the impact – on our society, our economy, and our democracy – if we don’t.”
-Dr. Raymond Rast, Asst. Professor of History at California State University at Fullerton

I realized that City Year corps members are honoring the legacy of such a historic case because we provide the support that’s necessary to graduate from high school. Now that I’ve learned about it, I’m even more proud of the work my team does with our students and the work City Year teams will do for years to come.

Next year’s City Year senior corps members were selected on Friday (also known as team leaders). Seven out of 14 of my roommates applied and ALL of them were accepted. Pretty damn impressive! Likewise, three people from the Markham were accepted, so at least one of the three will be back at Markham next year. I can keep up with the school and my students next year through whoever becomes Markham’s next team leaders. Congrats to everyone who was accepted!

20120318-223032.jpgMy students viewing work by Vincent Van Gogh at The Getty

20120318-225706.jpgA memorable Markham moment: I’ve overcome my math anxiety and every Wednesday one of my students comes to our after-school program to take notes and get a hour and a half lecture about what math concept we’re working on class. My teammate was so proud of me that I was actually teaching math, he took a picture!

Another week tomorrow,
Sigh.

Liz

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