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An Appeal for Redevelopment

September 04, 1988

I have been privileged to work as a teacher, counselor and now a principal in the Bellflower Unified School District for the last 25 years. Soon after I started, my wife and I moved our family into this community for two compelling reasons. First, Bellflower was a community that had a strong sense of identity and a commitment to the future. Secondly, it has always been important to me to be involved in the community I serve as an educator.

As an educator, I was always fascinated with the number of students I had whose parents had attended our schools and who intended to live here when they went out on their own. When I asked them why, the answers would always contain some reference to a feeling about Bellflower having this sense of a community with direction, and that the people here cared about them and their future.

As a community, Bellflower now seems to have lost that sense of direction and commitment to the future, and we appear to have given in to fear. Any conversation today about our youth will invariably include concerns about drugs, gangs and moral standards. We are concerned about the idleness of youth despite our investment in schools, park and recreation programs and youth organizations.

As a high school principal, I know that a balanced combination of meaningful employment and effective schooling provides youth with a future that builds hope, optimism and positive attitudes. One of the greatest crimes that we adults can commit is to foster the alienation of our children because of our lack of faith in the future. We are the ones who have the power to choose the direction in which the future will unfold for our community and our children.

I appeal to you to endorse and support the efforts for adopting redevelopment in this community. I make this appeal not because I believe redevelopment is a panacea that will end all of the ills of our society, but because I believe that it represents a commitment to our future and to those who come after us. Redevelopment is not a concrete "plan," program or end in itself. It is a commitment to provide a means to establish direction and build the future in this community. It is a means to create a new economic vitality that can bring about other changes we desire in our community.

A community that fears its youth and the future will be one in which we will see gangs and drug use grow out of that alienation. We have the opportunity to provide the means of building a future that will tell our children we care about them. Redevelopment is the means we can use to make the first step of reconciliation of our present fear with our future hope . . . our children.

JOSEPH STITS

Bellflower

Stits is principal of Somerset Continuation High School in Bellflower.

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