Adversity, equality and access to education was the theme of Leadership San Antonio’s most recent class day on April 6, which happened to coincide with San Antonio’s Fiesta celebration. The class heard from educational leaders, elected officials, teachers, and most importantly, the students themselves as they took a deep dive into issues affecting equal access to education in our city.

The day started off at Northside Independent School District’s Oliver Wendell Holmes High School. After a lively kickoff featuring the school’s mariachi band and cheerleaders, the class was ready to dive into some tougher topics. As LSA 46 class member Leslie Garza-Wright explained, receiving a good education is complicated, particularly in San Antonio where economic segregation is higher than most cities in the country.

“Reading, writing, ‘rithmitic… it’s not enough. Subjects are not enough,” stated Garza-Wright. “There’s so much more to learning! And learning more depends so much more on other factors… a student’s zip code, if the student has health insurance, whether his/her parents got educated.”

Dr. Brian Woods, Superintendent of Northside ISD, was the first speaker of the day. He walked the class through how the school district responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and how the pandemic laid bare how socioeconomic inequality affects student outcomes.

Next, the class split up into two groups. One group participated in a role-playing activity hosted by UP Partnership’s Dr. Emily Calderon Galdeano and Communities in Schools’ Rachel Vargas. The second half of the class took a close look at early education, particularly education that happens before pre-school. Mark Larson with Early Matters walked the class through the importance of high quality childcare and how Early Matters is working to provide access to children across our city.

The class then joined back together for a panel of Holmes juniors and seniors discussing difficulties they have faced during their high school experience. This powerful discussion was facilitated by two dedicated site coordinators from Communities in Schools, Kim Beauchamp and Thomas Bowman.

“If there is one thing that gets taken home today from this panel, please let it be the fact that although we as students are looked at as young adults or young scholars, we are people,” said one of the Holmes students. “We are people who haven’t gotten a full grasp of the world yet and people who are still learning.”

The LSA class then moved to St. Philip’s College where they engaged in a dyslexia simulator experience facilitated by Jasmin Dean, Executive Director of Celebrate Dyslexia. During this exercise, the class learned the frustration and difficulty children with learning disabilities face during their school day. They also learned that while dyslexia is common and equally present across all races, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds, children in underserved areas are less likely to be diagnosed and treated for the condition.

Next, St. Phillip’s College President Adena Loston told the class about several of the programs available at the school and how it is are particularly well situated to provide the support needed for a socio-economically diverse student population. This was followed by a Fiesta-inspired break where they were greeted by Rey Feo’s Court and the Fiesta Military Ambassadors.

Last, the class enjoyed a panel discussion facilitated by Dr. Al Kaufffman with St. Mary’s College School of Law. He spoke with Julian Castro, former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the Honorable Diego Bernal, Texas House of Representatives, District 123 about the history of school finance in Texas and the challenges ahead.

 LSA will continue their learning on May 4th where they will explore the important role of Military missions in San Antonio.

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