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Visit to 9th St. Elementary Brings Much Hope

By Susana Benavidez
Published: Wednesday, March 25, 2009, at 12:49PM

There is only so much reporting you can do from your computer or phone- so on Friday, March 20th, Danielle Duran, Kathleen McMullin, General Jeff and I visited 9th Street Elementary to meet the new principal, Ms. Anne Barry. The school grounds were clean, the children loud and happy. They waved as we walked by, and the administrative assistant was very kind- good so far. It only got better as we sat down to introduce ourselves and take advantage of her generosity with her time.

Ms. Barry started with 9th St. Elementary for the 2008-09 school year. In the short time that she has been there, she has quickly acquainted herself with the issues that the children, teachers and the school building itself are faced with.

The children at this school are overwhelmingly placed in a group labeled as homeless. They do not live on the streets but they do reside in residential hotels, the missions and other homeless services housing facilities. The majority of the student body is labeled ESL, which means that English is their second language. The food bank delivers food every Friday to the children. Do not despair, it is not as bad as it sounds- don’t shake your head- really it’s not that bad. Improvements can be made with the early participation and volunteering of Downtown L.A. residents.

Ms. Barry has made friends very quickly. She contacted Coca-Cola -- which has a bottling plant nearby -- asking the firm to join in on the Big Sunday event, which will be held on May 3rd from 12-4pm. Go to http://bigsunday.org for more info. Coca-Cola has been to the school previously –bringing lunch and drinks to the kids before Thanksgiving. The Curtis School has adopted 9th St Elementary on Big Sunday, and plans to bring 200 volunteers to the school to help in any way they can.

Barry has also secured funding for some of her students to take a 7-week (2x per week) class at Inner-City Arts (whose first home was the 9th St Elementary campus). Forever 21 donated shoes to the children- fitting them exactly for their size. The 5th grade teachers and students chose to walk to the Blue Ribbon Children’s Festival event at the Walt Disney Hall-- that’s 2.0 Mi -– so that they could save the money spent on buses on a future field trip.

If you have young children and are curious about the neighborhood school I encourage you to visit it for yourself. Don’t take my word for it; don’t listen to the horrid rumors or the stats on the web. Having children is like an investment, you have to monitor it, cultivate it, shift it in the right direction and watch it mature; surely a visit to the school site is not too much to ask when your child’s education is at hand.

Principal Barry was a delight to meet and a bursting ball of creativity and energy; I feel confident in the future of 9th St Elementary if the new residents of Downtown L.A. choose to adopt their own school and help it transform into a wonderful place. They currently are without a PTA (parents and teachers association), do not have a Read-a-thon program, and are in great need of parent leadership and community outreach.

The visit left me eager to help in any way I can. The first opportunity is to gather more volunteers for the Big Sunday event. I want to meet parents out there; together we can build upon the existing improvements made to the community school and add our energy, time or resources to make it a great school.

I will be attending the Family Free Sunday event at MOCA on April 5th- I hope to see you there. Again please email me if you have any questions or are interested in volunteering opportunities, whether they be gardening, reading or writing a check!

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