Inspired by Los Angeles: A Father Brought to Tears

02 Aug 2012 |
Inspired by Los Angeles: A Father Brought to Tears
Above: The Mendez Learning Center in Los Angeles, CA (Photo provided by Proyecto Pastoral)

Deycy Hernandez couldn’t believe what she was seeing.  Just moments ago, the stern-faced gentleman standing next to her appeared impassive while his wife and daughters were jumping for joy.  It wasn’t until Hernandez noticed the tears rolling down his cheeks that she realized how proud he was of his son’s accomplishment at the Mendez Learning Center High School graduation.

The man’s son was not expected to graduate, based on early warning signs provided by the school. The Boyle Heights Promise Neighborhood (BHPN) refused to give up on students like him so they started a mentor program called “Ambassadors for Success.”  The program focused on passing high school exit exams and meeting other graduation requirements.  I recently spoke with Hernandez, Director of BHPN, about this new mentor program.

BHPN is a collaborative of over 100 residents, youth, about a dozen community organizations and three schools, including Mendez Learning Center. Using early warning signs, or indicators, the BHPN steering committee identified 25 high school seniors off the track to graduate on time.  Some indicators used were failed high school exit exams, school attendance statistics and the number of credits completed. Hernandez knew these students needed help:  “These students were at great risk of not graduating so we had to do something.”

BHPN partners came together to provide a range of academic supports and reached out to the community to garner support for these troubled students.  What they got in return was more than Hernandez ever expected.  “When we put a call out for mentors, we got an overwhelming response and actually had more mentors than students identified,” said Hernandez.

Through the “Ambassadors for Success” program, mentors in the community helped more than 90% of participating students to graduate on time.  The program also achieved the committee’s goal to transition from “planning” to “implementing” their Promise Neighborhood.

When someone who cares takes action, and the community comes together, students like the ones in Boyle Heights can defy all odds and forge a path to educational success.  “Ambassadors for Success” shows the latent ability within all communities to help youth succeed.