At the League of Education Voters (LEV), we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for September: a student group called the Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success, or ALAS. Read more about ALAS’ work to engage their community.
Maite Cruz testified for the first time ever this summer at the State Board of Education meeting in July. A rising tenth grader, Maite says she was “unbelievably nervous” but was determined to speak up about the importance of setting graduation requirements at a college-ready level (a level ‘3’ cut score) for Smarter Balanced assessments. She learned about the opportunity to testify after meeting League of Education Voters Community Organizer Ruvine Jiménez at aPasco Discovery Coalition meeting.
In her testimony, Maite asked the board: “If our own state doesn’t have confidence that we can achieve a ‘3,’ how will we ever have confidence in ourselves that we can succeed?” The State Board ultimately voted to set the cut score mid-way between a ‘2’ and a ‘3,’ but Maite’s testimony moved them. Later that same evening, Maite had the opportunity to sit next to Board Chair Isabel Muñoz-Colón at dinner, who expressed her gratitude for Maite’s testimony.
Along with Maite, her friend Diana Alonso also testified. Both Maite and Diana are members of a student organization, Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success (ALAS). ALAS formed about four years ago, and Maite says her older brother was one of the founding members when he was in high school. The goal of the group is to grow community engagement in education and cultural events.
When they initially formed the group, ALAS members didn’t want to have any leadership roles—they wanted all of the members to have an equal voice. That turned into one of their “biggest challenges,” says Maite, because it made it much more difficult to stay organized. They ultimately changed their mind and created various roles within the group, with Maite taking on the role of president.
ALAS holds multiple events throughout the year, and one of their biggest events is a week-long summer camp for students in grade K–6. The camp is offered in English and Spanish and is organized entirely by the fifteen teenagers comprising ALAS. This year, ALAS enlisted the help of student teachers from Washington State University’s Tri-Cities campus, and they provided curriculum for the week.
Each day of the summer camp had a theme. One day, for example, was “Volcano Day,” and the students learned about, and made their own, volcanoes. Students attended the camp, which included lunch and snacks throughout the day, at no cost. This year was the third year of offering a camp; last year’s camp was covered in the Tri-City Herald.
Going forward, Maite says ALAS wants to make a more concerted effort to engage all members of the community, in addition to students. They recently held a community “café event” for 16 families that both parents and students attended. The parents loved the event and enjoyed discussing community-wide concerns and issues. The Pasco School Board President attended the event, as well, and responded positively to the community voice.
ALAS is also planning an event in September in honor of Mexican Independence Day, and they are partnering with a health organization in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
And Maite? She says she’s not sure what she wants to do after high school yet, but she does know that she really wants to help out her community and give back to them in the same way that they have supported her.