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EASTSIDE : High School Pupils Voice Their Gripes

March 20, 1994|MARY ANNE PEREZ

Councilman Richard Alatorre gathered high school students last week to announce the formation of a Youth Advisory Council in his district. And if their initial comments are any indication of what is to come, the 14th District councilman will hear a lot more about the need for more youth centers and better education.

Alatorre held a two-hour meeting Monday at City Hall with 12 representatives from high school student bodies in his district, seeking their comments on what the City Council can do to help youth.

"You can help me focus on where it is we're going," Alatorre told the students. "We need to provide options for young men and women. It's easy to say, 'Let's just lock up the bad ones.' But I believe 99% of the young people are good but all the emphasis is on the 1% that is bad."

The students suggested more youth centers and clubs to get more teen-agers involved in positive activities. Many said they need more after-school and summer jobs and productive activities earlier in life to improve their chances of success. They also emphasized that the powers that be need not give up on those who have already chosen to join gangs.

"I think we can still offer them something instead of thinking, 'There's nothing we can do,' " said Angelica Gutierrez, a 16-year-old junior at Sacred Heart Catholic High School in Lincoln Heights.

Most of the students complained about teachers who do not know how to motivate students or make learning more interesting. They are the reason for many students dropping out of high school, the students said.

Lucy Godoy, an 18-year-old senior at Roosevelt High School, said budget cuts have affected the teaching staff at her school in Boyle Heights. "The problem is with older teachers. Not all of them, but many of the older teachers, it seems like they've given up. And the budget cuts get rid of the newer teachers who are good," she said.

Students also said that the cuts have reduced or eliminated new textbooks and classroom supplies, which would make schoolwork more meaningful and better prepare students for continuing their education.

One student said his health book was published in 1972 and does not even mention AIDS. Another said his chemistry lessons were all taught from the textbook with no hands-on experiments, making it difficult to fully understand theories and concepts.

Alatorre wants to form a Youth Advisory Council that would meet three times a year to advise him on issues involving youth. The council would be made up of students who hold school offices, such as student body presidents. He also wants to schedule a summer youth conference that would be open to all youths in his district to address issues facing them.

The students who met with the councilman last week represented public high schools, alternative schools and private schools. Many of them said they would be willing to continue their efforts to improve conditions for youths.

"I really believe if we don't invest in you and your brothers and sisters, then we are to blame for the problems in society," Alatorre said. "If we are not responsible for providing options for young people like yourselves, then we are the biggest problem."

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