This piece was part of the Ánimo Voices Competition, which invited students to write about innovators, upstanders, visionaries, or rebels that have made a difference in their local or broader communities. The competition was an opportunity to motivate, recognize, and celebrate our strong student voices through writing and art.
by Evelyn Guadalupe Amaral Ramos, 10th grade, Ánimo Watts College Preparatory Academy
For communities in Watts, it is important that we as people of color know our rights because sometimes we face problems in our community without knowing we have rights. For example, there is a problem where police officers stop and frisk people based on their race. Many of these people were also searched without knowing they can decline the officer's request to search their car if they wish to. It is important to be educated as citizens of communities of color to keep our loved ones safe and learn that we all have a voice to change the way our community functions for the better. In an article called “Racial profiling in L.A.: the numbers don't lie” published by Los Angeles Times, it stated “For every 10,000 residents, about 3,400 more black people are stopped than whites, and 360 more Latinos are stopped than whites. Stopped blacks are 127% more likely to be frisked -- and stopped Latinos are 43% more likely to be frisked -- then stopped than whites.” Watts is made up of 70 percent of Latinos. This means that if we can get parents more involved in the community and give them the knowledge of their rights, it can decrease the number of people being stopped and frisked. One person in my community who has challenged the idea of educating parents and students is Samantha Levra (Ms.Levra). She is the Community Engagement Coordinator for Animo Watts College Preparatory Academy. Her job is to work with parents and students to practice leadership skills and educate them about their rights.
Talking to our parents and keeping them informed about the importance of them speaking up about any problem they face within the community is very important because if everyone is aware that they have voices then we stay more united and the fear lessens. Ms.Levra hears the concerns of parents and helps them come up with a solution to the problem. For a long time already my school has had a problem with a lot of students jaywalking, getting run over by cars, and cars making illegal u- turns. “People used to cross the street at 127th and still sometimes do. Last year Animo Watts and Mae Jemison implemented the new drop-off system where parents go around to the back of Mae Jemison. Before that there was a lot more traffic on Avalon Boulevard and for several years there's been lots of issues with either u-turns in the middle of Avalon or left turn,” states Ms.Levra, in an interview I had with her. It was clear we needed to do something about it. And thanks to the parents hard work and Ms.Levra's help, we will finally have new traffic signs. This is very much needed because of all the accidents and traffic it caused.
Out of many changes Ms. Levra has made, one that I am the most proud of was increasing voters. This pass election Ms. Levera encouraged many parents to vote and if they were not registered to vote, she encouraged them to get there families and friends to vote. My mom was not the type of person to encourage others to vote because she knew nothing about voting. She was very frightened about the whole voting policy because she cannot vote, and to her, the thought of getting other people to vote never crossed her mind because she did not know enough about it. After having a meeting with Ms.Levra, my mother became much more confident about her knowledge on voting and got our families and friends to vote. That, to me, was very inspiring and very courageous. I think the part that most amused me was the way my mom got more involved in politics and before she wasn’t. I loved the fact that I got to talk to my mom about voting and just politics in general. My mom also got my dad more into politics and community problems we face and I even got to learn a lot from both of them. My mom attended a parent workshop and she even ended up meeting new people.
In conclusion, I believe Ms. Levra has made a great impact overall in my community. I believe it is important to have someone in every community with whom we can rely on to get our information clear and stay updated on our rights and the problems we face within the community. I believe if parents have these resources then our problems will be less and the unity will become stronger. The more unity we have the safer our community will become. With Ms. Levra’s hard work slowly our community will change for the better and I don’t think anyone else could’ve done it but her. We have a lot to thank her for. Admiring the hard work she puts, I asked her what’s her motivation and she responded, “feeling good about what the parents have accomplished.” That, to me, was very admirable because without her the parents wouldn’t have accomplished anything like they have done. We as students really need to depend on our parents to speak up for us and with the support of Ms. Levera and our parents, we feel way more safer and parents also have more directions. Furthermore, I would like to give thanks to Ms. Levra for being an inspiration, an amazing Parent Coordinator and overall being someone we can depend on when we face struggles within our community and get our questions answered. I believe Ms. Levra has one of the best jobs because not only do we see our parents engaged in school and community, but we also get to learn from our parents and hear their different points of views and talk about it. It’s safe to say Ms. Levra has one of the best jobs in the world.