School regenerates immigrants’ pride

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2The school serves more than 150 local families, almost all from Mexico, with a program emphasizing learning about the ancient heritage and culture, in order to give the students a sense of roots and pride. Aguilar was a teacher for several years at Garfield High School, and he became frustrated at the great number of dropouts there and at other mostly Latino-populated secondary schools. He attributes the lack of motivation to succeed to the denial of culturally relevant programs and to an inflexible desire to Americanize first-generation students in the elementary grades. Aguilar partnered with some local community leaders and applied for a grant from the Raza Development Fund and Amicus Bank. A $1.4 million loan was acquired to turn an abandoned Masonic Lodge into a charter school in 2001, and the LAUSD granted a five-year approval. Academia Semillias del Pueblo opened with about 150 students.Enrollment has since doubled, and the school now teaches from kindergarten through fifth grade. Its current Academic Performance Index is 597 out of a possible 800. Almost all its students are from low-income, English-learning families. The LAUSD recognizes charter schools as a way to ease its shortage of facilities and to increase parent and student involvement. The district requires charters to follow LAUSD policy “except in those areas they specifically describe in their charters, such as curriculum, pedagogy, philosophy, personnel and governance.” Academia Semillias del Pueblo describes its course offerings as having dual-language immersion, global cultural studies, instruction in visual, performing and martial arts and “a living curriculum to give rise to a regenerative school culture that embraces the customs and traditions of those served.” This includes learning a vocabulary of the ancient Aztec language, Nahuatl, and an understanding of the “base 20” mathematics used to build ancient pyramids and master astronomy. The school has become a center of immigrant family “regeneration” for students and adults forced to leave their homelands to find economic opportunity in “El Norte.” Jennifer Solis was student body president of Belmont High School in 2003-04 and is now a premed student.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Of the hundred charter schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, few can claim the kind of community support that has been shown to Academia Semillias del Pueblo in El Sereno. More than 200 parents and local neighborhood residents gathered at the Huntington Avenue school Saturday afternoon to express their desire for the school board to renew the charter later this year and keep the unique program aimed at instilling pride in children of Mexican and American Indian background. The 253-pupil academy became a cause celebre recently when a local talk-radio station criticized the school’s principal and sent a reporter to interview him, the parents and students. One of the parents, believing the reporter was taking pictures of the kids, chased him and confiscated his tape, which turned out to be audio, not video. Principal Marcos Aguilar apologized to the station, but explained that his academy, like many other elementary schools, is continually on the alert for child predators, and the incident was an over-reaction to the presence of a stranger with recording equipment. last_img

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