On June 4th, 2015 West Leadership Academy (WLA) celebrated its first eighth grade continuation. The participating students were the first sixth grade class at the school’s inception in 2012. The school has grown successively by adding grade levels as the students advanced. Next year, these students proudly enter high school at WLA.
Middle School Principal Dave Alex kicked off the event by welcoming the community and honoring the young learners. He emphasized the school’s three core values: integrity, scholarship, and citizenship and congratulated the students for embodying them throughout their time at WLA. Principal Alex described the events to follow and introduced distinguished guest City Council Member Paul Lopez.
Executive Principal Teresa Sena Klava continued with a heart-felt recognition of the students as pioneers of a unique learning environment that offers opportunities such as: college visits to familiarize students with the higher learning opportunities after high school (students grade 6-12 visit at least two colleges every year); special events like participation in the Latin-Eco Festival where Dolores Huerta implored students to act based on their passions by organizing groups; service learning projects like the cleaning of West Campus and Sunken Gardens Park; and explore courses that allow students to choose a week-long intensive course to explore a passion and learn through experience. Principal Klava shared an excerpt of the poem “The Bottom Line,” by Keith Kennedy:
FACE IT, nobody owes you a living.
What you achieve, or fail to achieve in your lifetime
is directly related to what you do or fail to do…
No one chooses his parents or childhood,
but you can choose your own direction.
Everyone has problems and obstacles to overcome
but, that too, is relative to each individual.
NOTHING IS CARVED IN STONE.
You can change anything in your life,
if you want it badly enough.
And never think it is too early to begin.
Time plays no favorites
and will pass whether you act or not.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE
Dare to dream and take risks…Compete.
If you aren’t willing to work for your goals don’t expect others to.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.
Principal Klava concluded by remarking that she’s known many of the students since they were in third grade, and she is proud -and honored- to be their principal at WLA. She challenged students to embrace their future, advocate for themselves and communities, and realize there is no limit to their future success. She concluded with special thanks to the parents and community for their continued support.
Student speeches by Blandy Ek-Cardoz, Brisa Ramirez-Anguiano, Lucciano Alire, and Armando Gutierrez included memories from their time as middle school students and gratitude for their teachers. They remembered being timid sixth graders brought out of their shells thanks to the encouragement of their first teachers here. They feel that their horizons are continuously expanding as students at WLA. Students also commented on the process of challenging boundaries, making poor decisions at times, but eventually learning how to be successful in a school that facilitates their development as young leaders.
Councilman Lopez, a 1997 graduate of West High School, proudly took the stage and reminisced that when he was in the students’ seats, he didn’t know what his future held. He said, “But you know exactly where you’re going, and it starts with a ‘C’!” Students shouted, “College!” He urged them to safely celebrate their success this summer and surround themselves with good friends, but to remember they’re West Cowboys. He remarked that West has a history of protest as students of a similar heritage were once treated poorly in this building. “The students in this school protested and played an important role in changing that.” He encouraged students to choose an identity, own it, be proud of it, but don’t step on someone else because of it. He quoted social rights activist Cesar Chavez, “Preservation of one’s own culture doesn’t require contempt or disrespect for other’s cultures.”
The final point made by Councilman Lopez was that there are literally millions of people in the world that would risk their lives crossing oceans and deserts to be in classrooms like theirs “so they better take the front seat!” He also reminded students that their families work to keep them in that seat. With this privilege comes great responsibility. Lopez concluded that if he speaks for these students again, he would like it to be as a guest in a college classroom.
WLA Dean Cris Sandoval then read each student’s name as they approached the stage guided by their middle school teacher. The students then crossed through the “Arch of Knowledge.” Awaiting them on the other side were high school teachers to welcome to the next phase of their education.