Lead Story West Edition

Compton elementary school honored for teaching civics

COMPTON — When it comes to civic engagement and civic learning for students, Laurel Street Elementary School is considered one of the best in the state of California.

The Compton Unified School District celebrated this recognition at Laurel Street Elementary School on May 7 by bringing out a handful of dignitaries and local officials.

Compton City Councilwoman Tana McCoy, Compton school board President Micah Ali, Compton Superintendent Darin Brawley, Compton school board Vice President Satra D. Zurita and California Administrative Presiding Justice Elwood Lui all showed up and gave kudos to the students at Laurel Street Elementary School in presenting the school with a civic learning award.

The Laurel Street Elementary School Civic Learning Program is one of six programs honored with the Distinction Civic Learning Award in California cited for its exemplary outreach in getting students involved in civic activities. The program is one of 13 in Los Angeles County selected among 74 schools statewide to be highlighted. The California Department of Education announced the award winners in February.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Laurel Street Elementary School Principal Francisca Owoaje. “This is four years of work in the making, and we’re so very proud of our accomplishments, and especially proud of our students because no matter how high we placed the bar for them, they always exceed it.

“My mind is blown away every time I go into a classroom and I see their confidence, their enthusiasm, their initiative. They come up with the things they want to do. And knowing that we have given them a voice gives me a lot of pleasure,” Owoaje added.

Laurel Street Elementary School is the only school in Los Angeles County to earn the Distinction Civic Learning Award. Eleven of the other 13 schools are recipients of the Merit Civic Learning Award. Only John Marshall Fundamental Secondary School from the Pasadena Unified School District achieved a higher status (Excellence) than Laurel Street Elementary School.

During the award presentation at the school, students showcased the many projects they are involved with, including working with law enforcement, saving animals, focusing on road improvements and social causes. A video presentation on the Laurel Street Elementary School Civic Learning Program provided insight to what the students do.

“The students here are just fantastic,” Judge Lui said. “I was so impressed with the level of knowledge. What’s more important is how they work together and enjoy their educational process.”

McCoy said she was impressed by the level of engagement from the students.

“The civic class, I thought it was an excellent idea,” McCoy said. “In schools now, we’re not taught civics as much, and because of that, we don’t know the power we have as citizens. When I came to the class a few months ago, they invited me here because they wanted to know how it works when they wanted to get something done. The students had issues with the potholes and they had a couple of other issues that they asked about.

“So I told them to stay engaged because, as citizens, they have power, and when you have an issue, you need to bring it to the attention of the elected officials. I told them we can’t see everything, we don’t know everything, and if you’re an elected official who is concerned about your community, you will engage with whoever has an issue to try and help resolve it. I told them it’s important for them to learn the process.”