• INSIDE OUR SCHOOLS

      3 polaroids with photos of Ahambra students

      “Voting Reform, Immigration, and Affordable College Education” Resolutions by Alhambra Students

      A year ago, Alhambra High School government teacher, Jose Sanchez, wanted his students to discover first-hand how the political process works. With help from members of the Alhambra Democratic Club, the students wrote a Gun Control Resolution. After much research, many rewrites and presentations to political organizations and city councils, the Gun Control Resolution prepared by the students eventually reached the halls of Congress via Representative Judy Chu.

      By Cheryl Cabot

      The Gun Control Resolution earned accolades for Sanchez and his students. Congresswoman Judy Chu selected Sanchez as “Educator of the Year” for the 27th Congressional District, and the Alhambra Government Class received a Certification of Congressional Recognition on May 25, 2018. Some of the students worked in Rep. Chu’s Pasadena office as summer interns. In addition, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Los Angeles recognized the students at its annual conference, and they presented the Gun Control Resolution at the Annual Leadership Conference of the L.A. County Office of Education, as well as to the Constitution Day Conference at the Ronald Reagan Library. Sanchez’s story, and that of his students, was reported in Colorado Boulevard.net, and then by Pasadena Star News, The Hill, and CNN, as well as in an interview on KPPC.

      The California Department of Education appointed Mr. Sanchez to serve on a committee of teachers to create criteria for awarding the State Seal of Civic Engagement to graduating high school seniors as mandated by AB 24 signed by former Governor Jerry Brown.

      Alhambra High School was so impressed with the achievements of Mr. Sanchez that it awarded him two additional government classes! This year Mr. Sanchez is working with three classes on three different resolutions.

      A different approach

      Because of his experience with last year’s class, Sanchez approached the project in a different manner this year. He had students research and give a class presentation on their proposals for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution. “Students seemed very excited at being able to tackle an issue of importance to them,” Sanchez said.

      Sanchez added:

      Topics included gun control, abortions for minors without parental consent, immigration reform, and mandatory vaccinations, to name a few. Then we had a Socratic seminar on all the presentations and we had a discussion about which one of the 18 presentations and recommendations we would take on as a class and had a vote.

      In all classes it was unanimous which issue to take on, research as a class and write a Resolution. In the end, once the Resolution was researched and written, most students still supported the Resolution during a vote, with 2-4 abstaining, and none disagreeing.

      “I have still maintained the integrity of the Resolution by having students write every word of the Resolution and vote on every line included to ensure there is buy-in from everyone and that the process was thorough and transparent,” Sanchez said.

      After all the research, discussion and voting, each class decided on a topic for that class’s Resolution. Period 1 selected, ” Voting Reform,” Period 5, “Alhambra as a Sanctuary City,” and Period 6, “Affordable College Education.”

      Period 1 students from Alhambra High in the classroom

      Period 1:(R-L) Amber Guzman, Alex Lin, Diona Deng, and Connie Yu (Photo – Cheryl Cabot)

      Period 1: Voting Reform

      With concerns about the legitimacy of elections in recent years, Period 1 decided to tackle voting. Some of the topics highlighted in its Resolution are making Election Day a national holiday; easy, same-day registration; accessible polling locations in all areas; free transportation provided by local cities for those who need it; and absentee ballots for disabled people. In addition, voting periods would be a minimum of three days and must be a Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Educational institutions must provide a week of voting education, and all polling stations must provide voter pamphlets in multiple languages.

      The students determined two of the most important items in their Resolution would be updated voting systems and the receipt by voters of a paper copy of their vote after submission.

      Why pick Voting Reform? According to Amber Guzman, “We had other ideas first, but we decided to do the voting because if we started with the voting, we can address more issues once we get everyone to start voting and we can address other issues that are important.

      Alex Lin felt “If we address voting it leads to groundwork on how we can approach problems we have in the future. We need more peoples’ opinions.”

      Period 5 Alhambra students in classroom with their laptops

      Period 5: (R-L) Angel Ge, Ashley Tay, Mary Hennigan, and Brandon Takasaki (Photo – Cheryl Cabot)

      Period 5: Immigration; Alhambra as a Sanctuary City

      Brandon Takasaki, a student in the 5th Period Government class, said, “We chose immigration because it is a huge, controversial topic now in the country. Politicians are trying to decide how to fix the immigration policy, so we decided to take a small step and come up with a way to elevate the problem.”

      How did the students tackle this problem? According to Angie Ge, “We first started by addressing it to California because we wanted it to be a statewide thing, but then we realized our goal was too big, so we made it smaller by just focusing on Alhambra, and helping our fellow residents of Alhambra because we know that in other cities like San Gabriel they were working with ICE and we were afraid the one day our City could do that. We are trying to prevent that from happening.”

      The class presented its Resolution to the Alhambra City Council, hoping for a vote of endorsement; two of the City Councilmembers, David Mejia and Jeff Maloney, were absent so a vote was not possible. However, the three Councilmembers in attendance, Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler, Ross Maza and Katherine Lee, voted to put the Resolution on the agenda for the next two City Council meetings for discussion. The first meeting is on May 27th.

      Read more: David Mejia and Jeff Maloney Warned by State Commission

      “Because Alhambra is such a diverse community with so many immigrants, we felt the City Council wouldn’t be too big of a hurdle because it is a diverse group. They would be able to resonate with our problems and be willing to hear us out and possibly adopt our resolution,” said student Mary Hennigan.

      Ms. Hennigan was upset that the two Councilmembers did not show up for the presentation:

      They should be willing to hear people out. That’s their job!

      “I think the most important feature of our bill is that local law enforcement cannot cooperate with federal immigration officers.  While the State has SB 54, I think it’s important that the City has its own laws to show that immigrants have our City’s support,” said Jonathan Ng.

      Student Diana Diep sitting in front of her laptop smiling at the camera

      Period 6: Diana Diep (Photo – Cheryl Cabot)

      Period 6: Affordable College Education

      College is on the minds of many of these students, all of whom are seniors. Being able to afford college is a big concern. To that end, the students of Period 6 decided to address the issue in its “Affordable College Education” Resolution.

      Diana Diep hopes to make it into medical school someday, and she was an early proponent of this resolution.   She said, “I believe that this resolution will greatly alleviate the student debt problem that millions of students and graduates across the country face today.”

      The costs of getting a higher education are rising but average family income is not, so family living expenses are heavily impacted as students and their families struggle to pay college   tuition, room, board, books and incidental expenses.  More financial aid is necessary because each student has a right to pursue a career without the burden of the extreme costs of college.

      How are we expected to chase our dreams if we cannot afford them?”

      Some of the items in the Resolution for Affordable College Education are increasing financial aid grants, forbidding interest rates on subsidized and unsubsidized loans in excess of four percent, allocating more money for student grants and scholarships and increasing Cal Grant and Pell Grant annual income limit for the middle class.

      The students also suggest increasing the grace period for interest on Stafford loans, offering affordable or free healthcare for students enrolled in higher education and, finally, allowing students to file for bankruptcy for student loans on the same basis as other debts.

      Writing these Resolutions was not just a simple assignment for these students. A great deal of discussion, research and writing was required. In addition, the students are sending their Resolutions to Federal, State and Local political office holders, as well as local organizations and city councils, to obtain their endorsements.  After graduation, some students will continue the effort to present these Resolutions to Congress.

      These students have learned about the political process of writing, presenting and getting support for Resolutions.  More importantly, they have started conversations about serious issues beyond their classrooms, which is a step toward solving larger problems.


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      Comments

      1. Donny Brook says:

        Sounds more like Alhambra High School is teaching indoctrination instead of education.

      2. Sean says:

        Good on these students! It is crucial that our youth are civically engaged. It is a habit they will retain throughout life, ensuring democracy works for all. Bravo!

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