TCLA's School Accountability Report Card Series: Features: 1
Making the Grade

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Photo: Emma Street

Parents Working Towards Reform: A Profile of Emma Street

Emma Street acts on her love for parents, schools, and students through her work as a Parent Advocate for the UCLA Parent Project.

Emma Street was born in 1939 in the front room of a house that also served as a church in south Los Angeles. She later attended Lincoln Elementary in Compton. As a child, Ms. Street had a heart condition that made attending school a challenge. “Being ill growing up and going to school, there were restrictions for me...I felt left out because the common word for me was ‘no’ and ‘don’t.’ But, yet, I loved school.” As she got older, she experienced racism, “mostly among the administration in high school, counselors, deans, and the Vice-Principal. There were no Blacks in the administration, only American-Caucasian.”1

“There could be a number of reasons why a child is not doing as they should. I don’t want to label a child because we don’t know where the problem lies. Sometimes there is just one parent working in the home.”

Still, despite such immense obstacles, Ms. Street believes that she had access to a quality education, one that exceeds what her grandchildren receive today. “I would say we had more quality teachers. They were more caring and concerned teachers, in spite of our background.”

Today Ms. Street lives in Lynwood and as the mother of seven, grandmother of 21, and great-grandmother of three, she has a vested interest in the education of her community. Unwilling to passively accept the current conditions of schools, Ms. Street possesses a distinct commitment to take action by serving as a Parent Advocate for the Lynwood chapter of the UCLA Parent Project, a professional development program for parents eager to ensure that all students have equal access to educational opportunities. The Lynwood Parents, also known as the Parent U-Turn, serve their schools by volunteering time in the classroom, learning about education policy issues, and challenging local and state officials to ensure the rights of all students to a quality education. As a leading member of this thriving coalition of parent activists, Ms. Street has volunteered at Hosler Middle School, engaged in grassroots organizing, and conducted research in collaboration with professors at UCLA.

Although she signed up for the Parent Project on a whim, she soon “fell in love with it.” Like many parents, her initial involvement was motivated by her concern for her family. “It was necessary for me to be there (Hosler Middle School) because my grandchildren were going through a rough time.” However, Ms. Street soon came to realize the profound impact her presence on campus had on all students. “When I got there, I found that the whole school needs parent involvement.” She noticed that with “parents involved and in the classroom,” students behaved more responsibly and teachers experienced relief from the psychic load of teaching to oversized classes.

“My hope for working with the Parent Project is to better the education for the kids, for all children….I see a future for future generations by way of reforming, because what they’re getting now is nothing. I’m working with the Parent Project, so that these children will not be lost.”

"I don’t expect a teacher to have 40 children in a classroom and be able to teach them one on one. With parents there, you can check on that one child,” states Ms. Street.

In a culture that oftentimes blames students for the problems in schools, Ms. Street feels a palpable compassion for the students. “There could be a number of reasons why a child is not doing as they should. I don’t want to label a child because we don’t know where the problem lies. Sometimes there is just one parent working in the home.” Understanding the realities of many family situations in her community, Ms. Street views her role as a necessary, though unpaid, service for the entire school community. Parent Advocates, she believes, “can be helpful to the teacher, to the administrator and to the child. With parents, teachers and administrators working, we can change the school.”

However, Ms. Street’s contribution extends far beyond the classroom as she also works towards a hopeful vision of school reform. “My hope for working with the Parent Project is to better the education for the kids, for all children….I see a future for future generations by way of reforming, because what they’re getting now is nothing. I’m working with the Parent Project, so that these children will not be lost.”

Photo: Emma Street True to her word, Emma Street has worked hard towards creating such a future as an activist. She has spent hours waiting for Lynwood Board of Education members to come out of closed meetings so that her voice can be heard, conducted research in malls and stores to discover what parents know about the conditions in schools, and made countless calls to parents in her community to inform them about their rights and about the services available to their children. Her actions express her belief in every student. According, to Ms. Street, this is their right as human beings. “I’m a person that believes in the human race, not one race of people.”

Laila Hasan, Director of UCLA’s Parent Project has worked extensively with Ms. Street and has admired her commitment and passion to connect with families. “When Ms. Street conducts a survey at a local mall, she sees it as an opportunity to dialogue with parents about the necessity of access and equity for all students, including their child. Ms Street is definitely a model and mentor for all parents and communities,” states Ms. Hasan.

"Take the 13 weeks. Become a parent advocate for your children,” entreats Ms. Street. “Because if the parents get it, they can pass it along to their children. But they need to get it first. It’s a wonderful program for parents. And as long as I have my health I’m going to participate.”

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