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Ventura County Perspective

For People Trying to Make a Difference, a Hearty Round of Applause

March 11, 2001|STEVE BLUM | Steve Blum is president of the Ventura Unified Education Assn

It has always been difficult to lift yourself out of the ghetto, but today it is harder than ever. The class divide is widening, not getting smaller.

This was dramatized in the outstanding three-part series "Confronting the Class Divide" by Times staff writer Fred Alvarez, published Feb. 18-20.

These articles were real-life, accurate accounts of what young people from Ventura County's barrios and other poor neighborhoods face today.

I can relate to low expectations and assumptions by well-meaning people. When you are poor, other people can tell. Most people don't mean to stereotype you into the "you are poor--you won't amount to much" box, but they do. Many poor people put themselves into this box without any help. I lived this scenario.

My high school track coach, Gene Abernathy, is the one who changed things for me. He taught me and made me believe that I could actually accomplish something and be somebody. He was just about the only one who told me that I could go to college and graduate.

I enjoyed reading the stories of people in Ventura County who are making a difference. People like Ray Seay, the unnamed wrestling coach in the story about Hector Martinez, Susan Eberhart and many other staff members at Sheridan Way Elementary. There are a great many people at other schools working to make things better for those less fortunate. Many other good people from the police departments, Boys & Girls Clubs, Upward Bound and a host of other programs are involved as well.

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I applaud all the people in Ventura County and other places who are trying to be part of the solution. I tremendously appreciate Alvarez pointing out people making positive contributions. Too many times, we only get to read about the folks who make the wrong kind of contributions.

People in political positions to make things better are too quick to ignore or deny the situation. I hope the folks who represent us in Sacramento and Washington, D. C., read these articles and take them to heart.

I am proud to say that the California Teachers Assn. views this as a top priority. President Wayne Johnson has said, "We have to fight for improved education of all children, but our priority must be the education of our low-performing students."

They need more help. Let us all accept this and work to make it better.

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