Obama Administration official visits Crenshaw High School garden

Story by: Kevin Rivera, Crenshaw High School Digital Media Team

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region IX Director, Herb Schultz, recently visited the Mother Of Many garden partnership program at Crenshaw High School. The visit began with a meeting in the library where the Crenshaw Digital Media Team and the Cooking Live with Dorsey High culinary team members, teachers, parents and Mother Of Many supporters introduced themselves to Mr. Schultz. After introducing himself and telling us to call him Herb, he mentioned a lot about his profession and his main objective of helping First Lady Michelle Obama get students involved with healthy eating and exercise. Digital Media Team member Bryce Bailey found Herb to be “shockingly a cool person” after learning about his Health and Human Services background.

After all the introductions, my fellow peers and I shared our experiences about our Journey to the White House project and actually going to Washington, D.C to visit the White House and the Let’s Move team in person. To me, going to Washington D.C and stepping foot inside the White House was a dream to never be forgotten. When I saw the look on my peers’ faces, I knew that being there was no joke at all. We all deserved to make it inside the White House and we feel phenomenal about enjoying our time meeting the First Family’s personal chef, Sam Kass, and interacting with President Obama’s new media team.

Crenshaw Digital Media Team member and landscaping student Esual Parra presented Herb with our signature Destination: Change t-shirt as a welcome gift. Herb put it on right away to show his support for our Change What You Eat, Change How You Feel healthy eating campaign. Esaul also asked Herb if Let’s Move only partners with elementary schools. Herb’s response to Esaul’s question gave us all hope that the Mother Of Many Crenshaw and Dorsey partnership could be the first Let’s Move high school model.

“I have a very strong interest in seeing Let’s Move come to high schools, middle schools and that’s something that [Let’s Move Executive Director] Robin Schepper and the whole team is sort of talking about. You certainly have my commitment that I will be talking with the First Lady’s office, with the President’s Office, with the Secretary [of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius] about trying to expand,” said the Health and Human Services Region IX Director.

After hearing this everyone encouraged Herb to tour the garden. Wowed! by what he saw, the very down-to-earth Schultz planted some tomatoes and cabbage in the garden with us. We also treated Herb to a healthy 3-Bean-Turkey-Chili-Delight lunch prepared by our Dorsey high school culinary partners. The Dorsey team also served Herb breakfast during his tour of the school’s state of the art kitchen.
At the end of the day Herb sat down with Intersections South LA reporter Sarah Golden and talked about his visit with Mother Of Many students, teachers, parents and supporters at Crenshaw and Dorsey high schools.

Click here to see how much fun Herb had with us:

Related Stories:

Los Angeles school cafeterias boast healthier options
Crenshaw garden cleanup honors Dr. King
OPINION: How to help the transition from preschool to Kindergarten

For a love of music, movies, and Michael

imageFor 15-year-old Justin Horton, music is more than just a pastime: it’s a way of dealing with hardship.

“It’s almost like when I sing a song that I know and like it will help get the pain out of me,” said Horton.

His sad experiences, or the “heavy stuff,” as Horton calls it, include the death of his uncle when he was four years old and the missing presence of his father. Horton’s dad has been in and out of jail, leaving Horton’s mother to raise two children alone.

“All my life my mom has always been there and my father hasn’t,” said Horton. “So I’m more close to my mom than I am with my dad. My mom knows how to care for me and cheers me up when I’m feeling sad.”

Horton loves to sing along to his favorites, especially Michael Jackson, when he’s feeling down. But he also loves watching movies with his mom.

Listen to Justin talk about singing his troubles away and being a movie buff:

In fact, it was a movie that inspired Horton to become a fan of Michael Jackson. He was introduced to the superstar through “The Jacksons: An American Dream,” a movie his mother suggested.

Horton is a big fan of the Jackson 5 and loves singing along to songs like “Who’s Lovin’ You.” But “You Are Not Alone” remains Horton’s favorite Jackson song.

“My uncle died when I was four so every time I hear that song I always remember that even though my uncle is dead, he will always be with me and that I’m never alone,” said Horton.

Michael Jackson’s death in 2009 came as a big shock.

“My heart was beating fast,” said Horton. “I know that he was a good entertainer and a good father, so I was just thinking what is his family going to do and how are his children going to get taken care of? Everybody was upset so I felt upset too.”

Listen to Justin sing, and discuss his love for Michael Jackson:

No home to call my own

The author of this piece has requested to remain anonymous.

By a student at Crenshaw High School

Do you know how it feels to lose a parent not to death but the government taking them away? Or to have to grow up with people you know but really don’t like? Well, I don’t live with either of my parents or my family members; instead I had to join someone else’s. None of us are really related but somehow we call each other family. The government or foster care want us to call each other family, but the people I live with are not.

I had a family but the police took my mother away, and they have had her for two years now. They just keep changing her court date and blowing her off because she was not born here. And my father lives in another state, calls every now and then but I don’t feel like he’s doing all he can. They want me to call the house we live in my home but yet I was not born into it, I did not buy or choose it.

I live with a lady, her spoiled daughter who is 11 years old (but thinks she’s 30.), and her husband who has a problem with yelling. There are also two foster boys who are 13 and 7 years old. The 7-year-old is what society calls mentally challenged and the 13 years old is clinically depressed and has to take pills. Then you have my sister still in state of shock by the death of her father and for some reason, hates everyone in the house. I think she is like this because she lost her dad at an early age. She’s depressed and should probably take pills for help.

Then you have me. Born in Kingston, just turned 17 years old and I feel like I’m grown because as long as I have lived, I have been taking care of everyone else. I’m always cooking, cleaning, yelling or mad, because I have a life but can’t live it. I have to watch the kids and the truth is I don’t really like little kids.

When I grow up I want to be an attorney for children or a social worker because I don’t want other kids to have to go through things like this. Don’t get me wrong, I love helping people solve problems and doing important things for others, but chores aren’t the same as my work at home. All those kids and it’s only me doing house work. I have to get rid of my anger and problems by listening to music because I can’t do anything else.

I have to fake like I belong here but the government doesn’t want me because I wasn’t born here. I know the truth and all the answers to everyone’s questions about my mother’s situation but I’ve been told that if the truth is told, it might kill her.

I’m the girl who wants to show my emotions but I’m told not to and that I have to be strong. The girl who had it all until the justice system came and made it into their own story, something they would like to read. That story was once someone’s life, my life, and now it’s a memory, a dream I’m waiting on to see come through.

My life now is just waking up to yelling and arguing, going to school and getting in trouble for something stupid. Coming home and forgetting to do something and getting in trouble for it. My social worker says I have to go to school and get good grades but how am I to do that when I always have to go to court for paper work? She also gave me anger management classes but I don’t think I have any problems –it’s just I don’t like when people say they are going to do something and then don’t.

On Sundays I wait by the phone to get a chance to speak to my mother. I’m waiting on the call and to hear my mom say the judge has released her, but each time it’s her saying they pushed her date back.

I’m doing all I can so that I can join the justice system and try and change some things about the way it works because these people in charge have power and don’t know how to use it. They stay they are helping me by doing all this but when I ask to get a job, ask for help or ask for anything, nothing ever gets done. I just want everything to go back to the way it was, the way things are supposed to be.

Life in a different language

Irving Velasquez, Crenshaw High School

When I came to the United States in 2004, I started school in the 7th grade. My first day at school was the worse day of my life. I did not speak a word of English and most of my teachers did not speak Spanish, my native language.

I was in my first period. The class had barely started, and I wanted the class to be over already. When the period ended, I felt like crying, but I knew I had to be strong. I knew that what was happening was not going to be forever. I knew that I would learn the language and would succeed in life.

In order to succeed in life I knew I had to get some kind of help. One person that helped me a lot those days was Ms. Sanchez. I am very thankful to her, because she helped me when I needed it the most. She was my math teacher, but she turned into an English teacher in order to help me. She would help me with everything I needed. In nutrition and lunch I would go over to her class so that I could practice my English. That helped me a lot. Now I’m in high school, about to graduate, and it’s all because of my courage and her help. If one day I had the chance to help someone that needs it like I needed back then, I would do it with my best intentions, because I want to give back what I once received.

Some people don’t know how much teachers can help. I know, because I once needed that help and, lucky for me, I found it. Not everyone looks for help in their teacher, because they think that nothing will change the situation. Well things are not like that. Teachers will help if you let them.

A big brother lost to violence

By Theresa Olsteen, Crenshaw High School

I used to think that the one thing I could never speak about was the death of my brother. When it first happened, I couldn’t talk about it with anyone and didn’t want to think about it. Out of all of my family members I think that it hit my mom, his twin, and myself the hardest.

I didn’t believe it until the funeral. Although I cried when they told me he was gone, his death became real at his funeral.

His death wasn’t his fault. He went to the store with one of his friends earlier in the evening before the incident. His friend got in an altercation with a Hispanic man and that turned into a fight. From what I heard, my brother’s friend Red won the fight and the man left with cuts and bruises. After the fight my brother Kevin and Red returned to our house where they hung out.

After a couple of hours Kevin decided that he needed to go back to the store and his twin Keith told him that he shouldn’t. Knowing Kevin he didn’t listen. When he got back to the store the Hispanic man and one of his friends had been waiting there for him. Before he walked in the store the men shot him three times in the chest with a shoot gun. Kevin died right there on the spot.

The reason why I think that it hit me so hard is because we were really close. I talked to him about everything and he always listened. He was there for me when I thought that I was all by myself. He was my oldest brother and although he was mean at times, he was really nice. As days went by after his death I thought that I couldn’t live without him. He was the person that I would turn to when things got hard and rocky for me but I had to deal with it alone because he was gone.

Most of the time I isolated myself from everyone and everything. My mom thought that I was never going to talk again.

The way that I got through it alone was by picking up a book and sitting on our roof, where I was by myself, to read. It kind of got my mind off of it but I still couldn’t stop thinking about him.

The first person that I started talking to after the whole incident was his twin, my other brother Keith. I knew that we had to be going through the same thing because they where each other’s shadow. They went everywhere together.

After he and I started talking I started feeling better and now I feel like I can talk about it freely. Thank you for listening.

Community gathers to spread word on Props 24 and 25


imageMembers of the South Los Angeles community gathered Saturday to be part of over 200,000 people throughout California to walk in neighborhoods to educate residents on Propositions 24 and 25. Prop. 24 would repeal corporate tax loopholes and restore over one billion dollars to the state budget. Prop. 25 would establish a simple majority for passing the state budget, rather than the two-thirds vote California currently has.

Both Propositions, if passed, would ultimately bring more money to the education budget of the state.

Listen to the audio story:

It was a Saturday morning four days before the midterm election and 40 people gathered on a cement patio outside a building on Florence Avenue in South Los Angeles. Community members, teachers and students gathered at the offices at the community organization SCOPE (Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education.) They have one common goal: to create change in California.

They hope change will come with Propositions 24 and 25. Two of the many Props on the midterm ballot. Prop. 24 would repeal corporate tax loopholes and restore over one billion dollars to the state budget. Prop. 25 would establish a simple majority for passing the state budget, rather than the two-thirds vote California currently has.

Andrew Carrillo gave up his Saturday to walk precincts. He’s a teacher at 32nd Street USC Magnet. He says he hasn’t canvassed since 1982 but these propositions pushed him to get the word out.

“They are important to me because our government is dysfunctional. This is a small small step, but an important step to make it a little more functional.”

Many of the students and teachers walking on Saturday had one agenda: get more money for education. It’s no secret California’s economy is in disarray. And a budget in the red affects schools.

Michael Husinger was one student self-motivated to walk on Saturday. He’s a 15 year old from Crenshaw High School. He says Props 24 and 25 give him the chance for a better education.

“Well one, it improves the schools, so better education for me, and also for my family like my little brother and sisters and everything.”

Husinger is in the Social Justice and Law Academy so politics is a big draw for him. He and his classmates were part of a larger group of over 200,000 people were working over the weekend to get out the vote. Teacher and activist David Rapkin believes there is power in numbers.

“The differences that usually keep us separate need to be broken down. There is nothing like students and teachers walking together to symbolize that and create a reality.”

If Props 24 and 25 pass, the state is bound to direct more money to schools.

Students and volunteers reflect on trip to Washington

image“Students will actually benefit from this program, people start to look up to these students,” Daniel Reyes said, an alum of Crenshaw High School who works with the program Mother of Many and was one of the 18 students that went to the White House this past September.

The group, who is made up of students both from Crenshaw’s Digital Media Team and Cooking Live with Dorsey High raised all the money themselves through fundraisers and drives.

“We got to meet with President Barack Obama’s Digital Web team, we met with the First Lady’s nutrition campaign, the ‘Let’s Move’ campaign and we got to see her garden, which was very cool,” said Mother of Many board member Lauri Burrier.

The students were so inspired that they want to start their own First Lady Garden on a already existing 2.5 acre plot at Crenshaw. Mother of Many served healthy popcorn at the Taste of Soul Festival on Crenshaw Boulevard October 16.

“Our big dream is to start a farmers market that would work with the community, so we really want to get out into the community to give the kids more incentive to feel an involvement and feel leadership in their community and stay in school and go to college,” Burrier said.

Crenshaw parents and residents respond to shooting outside of local school

Listen to the audio story here:

After a shooting occurred outside of Crenshaw High School Thursday, parents remained wary when walking their children to class. Two teenagers shot each other near the campus Wednesday afternoon, and one is still in serious condition.

Donna Brown lives about six houses away from where the shooting occurred. The students involved were not from Crenshaw High School, but the occurrence left Brown unsettled.

“Quite frankly, I’m really kind of shocked because I thought all of this stuff was under control,” Brown said.

Police believe the shooting that involved a 17- and 19-year-old was gang related. It occurred around 1:30 p.m., when students were still in class.

Armando Farriez, a police lieutenant, partnered with the Los Angeles Urban League for the “safe passage” program. The program encourages police presence around the high school. But today, Farriez sent even more officers to the school.

“We spoke to a few parents, and they’re always concerned, but they feel a sense of relief when they see us here,” Farriez said.

But even though there were more officers in blue Thursday morning, some parents still believed their children were unsafe. Latoya Winston, a Crenshaw resident who went to the high school as a teenager, does not feel relieved. She walked her freshman daughter to the front gates of the school.

“To me, it’s like they’re just there, to have a look or a presence,” she said of the police. “But to me, it’s not effective because it happened.”

Last year, Crenshaw High School locked students down after rumors spread that a student brought a gun to school. Eddie Jones of the Los Angeles Civil Rights Association said this activity just perpetuates a negative image for the high school.

“Crenshaw High School has been and is still getting a bad rap,” Jones said. “I think the parents are upset. I’m sure no parent wants to go to work sitting at a desk and getting a call saying there was a shooting at their school.”

Despite the communities best efforts to distill that negative image, Brown said that image is a reality.

“This was in broad daylight,” Brown said. “I can’t walk. I can’t go walking when I feel like it. I’m ready to move, but because of the economy, I can’t do that.”

Brown has lived in the same house for 36 years, and she sent her daughter down the street to Crenshaw High School. The other day, she walked to the library, and although she felt bad for saying it, she said she felt safer walking west.

Crenshaw High School sends off students to White House

Students from Crenshaw’s Digital Media Team and the Cooking Live with Dorsey High members said goodbye to their parents, schools, and California on Wednesday for a few days.

On Friday, the 18 students will meet with President Obama’s Web Team and Mrs. Obama’s Nutrition Team to discuss how they can create a partnership. Crenshaw has a 2.5-acre garden on campus that they propose to name “Let’s Move Garden” in order to promote the cause of fighting childhood obesity.

Crenshaw Principal Carrie H. Allen congratulated the students and expressed her pride in seeing off the two classes to “one of the best cities in the world.”

“I’m so proud of you; more than you could ever imagine,” Allen told the students.

Parents were also present at Wednesday’s send-off celebration to support their children.

Rodney H. Fairweather, parent of a Crenshaw student, said the opportunity for the group to visit the White House is “phenomenal,” and “should be life changing.”

“You go to school, read about the Constitution, and they actually now get to see how it takes place. This is where the commander in chief…orchestrates world events,” said Fairweather.

Many students said they were most excited to get on a plane for the first time, to visit the White House, and to possibly catch a glimpse of the president himself.

Laurie Bailey, mother of a Crenshaw student, said she was really excited for the students to take the trip to Washington, D.C. because they did a lot of fundraising.

“It’s a really exciting time. This is something these kids will remember for a lifetime,” said Bailey.

Crenshaw High School Principal Carrie H. Allen congratulates students as they head to the airport.

More Intersections coverage of the Journey to the White House:

South Los Angeles students to visit White House

Crenshaw digital team goes straight to the top

Dorsey High School’s culinary program

Journey to the White House

There is no digital divide when Daphne Bradford is around. Bradford, a digital media educator at Crenshaw High School, has been working with a group of students over the past year to teach them digital media skills and to understand the power those skills will give them. For kids from South Los Angeles, reared amid poverty, gang violence and educational challenges, the election of the nation’s first African American president is a powerful symbol. The message of hope that Barack Obama represents inspired Bradford to begin a campaign to take her students to the White House. They will not stop until the President and First Lady invite the digital media team to visit them at the White House. With the help of the John Lennon Educational Bus, the Crenshaw digital media team members have produced a video letter to President Obama. Stay tuned to find out when they meet their goal and head to Washington DC.