Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Opportunity•
Today on CNN.com, they’re running an inspiring and thought-provoking op-ed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in which he discusses his own opportunity narrative and the steps Los Angeles is taking to extend that opportunity to more of its citizens.
…the local public high school was a “drop-out factory.” I was put into remedial classes, which I found boring and unchallenging after my previous education. But even worse than that, I felt like the school had given up on me. So, I gave up on myself and dropped out. My story could have ended there. I could have become one of my many peers who didn’t graduate. But my mother would not accept that fate for me, and a Roosevelt teacher named Herman Katz took an interest in me. They saw my potential and fought for me. They pushed me back into school. They pushed me to finish what I started – and I did, graduating in 1971.From there, I went to East Los Angeles Community College and transferred to UCLA, one of the finest institutions in the world. At UCLA, I was the beneficiary of affirmative action. Some would say I walked in through the back door. But one thing’s for sure, I went out the front. I had a diploma in hand, a future ahead of me and my head held high. For me, public education really was the great equalizer.
According to our Opportunity Index, Los Angeles has a long way to go before it provides world-class educational opportunities to its students – its on-time high school graduation rate is four points below the national average. However, Los Angeles County beats the national average of youngsters in preschool. Perhaps the next generation of Los Angeles students will get the “great equalizer” that propels them toward the American Dream.