Home Sweet Home?
We don't know how lucky we are. Most children in America grow up unaware of the safety net - or series of safety nets - below them. Sometimes teenagers take for granted all that is provided them. And so we asked the question: “What if it you woke one day and your parents were no longer taking care of you?”
Throughout our country abused, abandoned, and neglected children find themselves without adequate care and love. The final safety net is often the court system. In East L.A., the Edmund D. Edelman Children's' Court connects these children with shelter, medical, and educational services. In Los Angeles County there are 26,000 foster children who are dependents of the court! How can each individual child gets the attention the child needs? Enter a CASA.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate and is also the Spanish word for “house.” These are adult volunteers who align with the child and advocate for the child’s needs before the judge. The Peace & Justice Academy students visited the CASA offices and spoke with Lynne Gabriel, the Volunteer Services Director. Students peppered her with questions about the system and how a CASA works for and with an assigned child. We were taken to Judge Margaret Henry's chambers where she spent most of an hour describing her typical day and answering more questions…plus, she allowed the students to bang her gavel!
A week earlier Shannon Brousseau visited the school and taught us the ways of KnitRiot, a “collective of Los Angeles crafters who share both the love of working with wool and a concern about current issues affecting our community.” Shannon taught students how to crochet a simple owl. They didn't know at the time that the owls were to be donated to Children's Court.
As it turns out, a significant number of our students are adopted. At some point they came to their current homes through the court system - though they mostly don't remember. It is a humbling realization: we are not different than the boys and girls who came through the court the day we visited. We look around and we see us. Except we're a bit luckier. May we be thankful.
Last year our Middle Schoolers took a tour of some of L.A.'s Skid Row shelters. Walking among the homeless and destitute living on the downtown streets left a powerful impact. Four of our students decided to do something to help. Adrian, Madison, Johnny, and Casey organized a blanket drive to make the lives of some of our homeless brothers and sisters a little more comfortable. They were able to gather over 500 blankets and pieces of cold weather clothing. The items were donated to the Salvation Army in Pasadena; to My Friend's Place, a center for homeless teens in Hollywood; the Walter Hoving Home in Pasadena; and even to Operation Blankets of Love, to help homeless pets. Waging peace, standing for justice, impacting the world.
Palm Sunday Peace Parade
2013 is the parade's 11th anniversary and the 5th year of sponsorship by the Peace & Justice Academy. Although the parade is a joyous, family-friendly event celebrating the Prince of Peace, it is also serious business. The parade is a reenactment of the original Palm Sunday Peace Parade some 2000 years ago when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey. Approaching the city, Jesus looked at Jerusalem and wept. He lamented that the people did not recognize the things that made for peace. Thank you to all the students, friends, faculty, and family members who took some time from their busy weekend to show our community the things that make for peace.