Sunday, November 20, 2011


Politicians and educators were on hand to dedicated the recently opened high school.

By David Fonseca Echo Park Patch |


Goldberg and Kayser, center, cut the ribbon on Friday at Sotomayor Credit David Fonseca 

November 18, 2011 - Flanked by community members, students and politicians, local Board of Education member Bennett Kayser and former State Assembly, School Board and City Council Member Jackie Goldberg officially dedicated the recently opened Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academy in Cypress Park on Friday afternoon by cutting a big red ribbon.

Friday's ribbon-cutting ceremony was an affair worthy of the long battle fought by community members and politicians to build the state of the art campus on the former Taylor Yard grounds, complete with performances by the school's performance band and orchestra and the reading of a personal letter from the school's namesake to its students.

Parent Georgina Clink read the letter from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which urged students to make the most of the opportunities available to them at the new campus.

"My accomplishments are a direct product of the extraordinary education I received," read the letter from the Bronx,NY, native, born to the Puerto Rican immigrants. "Reading opens the universe to you and learning expands your horizons beyond your imagination. For these reasons, having your campus named after me is deeply touching and moving."

State Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) told the students it was a great opportunity to go to a school named after the justice.

"You shouldn't take that lightly," he said. "This is a great facility, unlike any I've ever attended. But that's not what matters. What matters is what you can make happen in the classroom with the help of your extraordinary teachers."

Los Angeles City Council Member Ed Reyes also urged the students to thrive. He told the students that though they had the fortune to attend a brand new, state of the art high school, they would also face challenges.

"Teachers are not being paid what they deserve, schools' budgets are being cut back, all that's left is you--your heart, your soul and your commitment to what's right," Reyes told the students.

Many of the speakers on Friday told the students that the community effort it took to build the school should serve as a model of dedication to students.

"This area was a brownfield, and the community had few places to go to build new schools," Reyes said. "The state wanted to make this area into a Caltrans facility, but the community stood up and said 'no.'"

Reyes also called for a round of applause for Goldberg, who in her various elected roles urged the city to listen to the community's calls for a new school on the property.

Sotomayor--which comprises three pilot schools and two charter schools--will draw students from Benjamin Franklin High School, Eagle Rock High School and John Marshall High School, helping to alleviate overcrowding at all three schools.

Among the students to speak on Friday was junior Kimberly Campos, who transferred to Sotomayor from John Marshall.

A former captain of the Marshall swim team, Campos said making the switch to Sotomayor was difficult, at first. She feared she would miss her friends and the confidence she received from competing in athletics. However, when an opportunity to transfer back to Marshall arose, she declined.

"I wanted to stay and be among the students who would set standard at Sotomayor," she said.


text of smf’s remarks at the ribbon cutting:

The work we've done together on the Bond Oversight Committee has always been about protecting the voters and taxpayers – making sure what you voted for – what we voted for – and what we are paying for and will pay for for a long time to come - comes to pass.

The voters voted for neighborhood schools. They voted to end involuntary busing. They voted to end the year 'round calendar. They voted for full day kindergarten in elementary schools. These things have almost totally come to pass.

We voted for these things for our children, for our neighborhoods, for our community.

Never has a community been more involved and more engaged in the process than here at this campus. We were there when folks drew a large circle on a map and said we needed a new school here In the Northeast – to relieve overcrowding at Eagle Rock, Franklin and Marshall. Franklin and Marshall were Year 'Round; Eagle Rock was busing their young people away.

This community identified that the school should probably be here in Taylor Yard. And some of us met in the Denny's down the street with the owners of this property to begin the discussion. Did we overreach? Did we go too far? Were we being pushy?

Yes, Yes, and Yes.

"Never underestimate the power of a dedicated few to change the world," Margaret Mead said. "They are the only ones who ever do."

We took our discussion to the District and we began to make it happen. Did we get everything we wanted?


Was it hard? Were there obstacles? Did we face opposition and intransigence and greed and resistance? Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes.

Some of the delay and opposition and angst was honest and well reasoned – some were not.

Did we win?

No. But we dared.

You won. Everybody won. The young people at this school today and generations to follow will win. They will connect with each other and with their potentials and they will overreach and go too far and push the edges of the envelope as far as it will stretch …and then a little father. They will dream the unimaginable and dare to make it happen.

When I started this journey I wanted my daughter at Mount Washington Elementary to attend this school. This June she graduates from college – because she wouldn't wait.

Don't be afraid to go too far and meet with those who stand in your way and bring them together with you to today. Dare to draw your designs on the placemat. You'll make friends along the way. You'll make a difference. And you'll change the world.

Change is not a spectator sport. It's a team sport, played with different levels of skill and involvement by all of us here – and by our friends and neighbors who aren’t here.

Change is not an outcome, it's a process.

Like life, it's an adventure.

We wanted a high school here. And we wanted a community college. One down and one to go.

So Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls: Dare to dream.

And thank you.

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