The 10 candidates vying for the Los Angeles Unified School District 5 board seat squared off in a forum in Cudahy hosted by the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA, the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, and the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles.
The candidates answered questions from students from the Southeast-Rio Vista YMCA Youth & Government Program. The students, who attend LAUSD high schools in Southeast Los Angeles, focused on issues including class size, charter schools, equity in academic offerings and opportunities for Dreamers to attend college.
District 5 includes El Sereno in Los Angeles and City Terrace in East Los Angeles, as well as cities in Southeast Los Angeles County, all of which are also served by Cal State LA. The forum was held Feb. 6 at Clara Street Park in Cudahy.
The March 5 ballot will include: Ana Cubas, nonprofit executive; Jackie Goldberg, former school board, city council and assembly member and retired teacher; Cynthia Gonzalez, a high school principal at Diego Rivera Learning Complex; Allison Greenwood Bajracharya, Camino Nuevo Charter Schools’ chief of operations; Graciela Ortiz, school counselor and Huntington Park councilmember; Heather Repenning, former City of Los Angeles Public Works commissioner; Rocío Rivas, educational researcher and community activist; Salvador “Chamba” Sanchez, community college instructor; David Valdez, Los Angeles County arts commissioner; and Nestor Enrique Valencia, Bell councilmember.
“This was a unique and important forum because it allowed high school students from the district to lead the event and take part in an electoral process that will directly affect their education,” said Cal State LA Executive Vice President Jose A. Gomez, who is the chair of the Pat Brown Institute Board of Advisors.
The students served as panelists, moderators and event volunteers. “Many of you are newly registered voters, and those of you who can’t vote, be sure to encourage others to vote,” student moderator Evelyn Madrigal said to the guests who filled the community center for the event. “We have the opportunity to elect a candidate who focuses on our needs.”
Madrigal, who attends Linda Marquez High School in Huntington Park, and other student volunteers prepared for the debate with the help of staff from the Pat Brown Institute. The League of Women Voters served as the liaison to the candidates and worked with them to ensure they agreed to the forum ground rules.
“This is the type of civic engagement that Cal State LA and the Pat Brown Institute seek to promote in the communities we serve,” said Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director for the Pat Brown Institute.
The Pat Brown Institute is a governing board member of the SELA Collaborative, a group of stakeholders that aims to strengthen communities in Southeast L.A. through community engagement.
The forum came as Cal State LA and the YMCA push forward with their historic Achieve LA partnership, which was launched in 2017. Achieve LA is creating pathways to higher education for youth in L.A.’s most underserved communities who participate in the Y’s Urban Initiative: Cradle to Career Success. Achieve LA is also supporting youth and their families through initiatives promoting civic engagement and academic enrichment.
“A core part of the YMCA’s mission is to encourage youth interest in civic engagement and the governmental process,” said Victor Dominguez, executive vice president and chief mission officer for the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles. “We were proud to partner with Cal State LA, the Pat Brown Institute and the League of Women Voters of L.A. to help elevate the voices of Southeast Los Angeles students in this important race.”
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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 distinguished alumni.
Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.