A mural by Los Angeles artist Judith Baca of Robert F. Kennedy and Cesar Chavez is a focal point of the library of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex. The location of the library is where Sen. Robert F. Kennedy gave his speech after winning the California. Photo by Alexandria Lau

Editor’s note: Alexandria Lau teaches U.S. history, journalism and photography at Ambassador School of Global Leadership and is a mentee in the JEA Mentoring Program. Her mentor is Jolene Combs. The school, part of a six-school complex in urban Los Angeles, has gained national attention due to construction costs. The site of the school is the former Ambassador Hotel where Robert F. Kennedy gave a campaign victory speech in 1968 shortly before he was assassinated. We asked Alex to share her story of when the school opened.

by Alexandria Lau

When I returned to work on Sept. 13, I tried not to let the men with cameras and microphones interfere with my main objective – to greet and welcome the students to our new school.

“Good morning!  Welcome to class!”  I said with a smile.

As the students entered, they looked around like animals trying to acclimate to a new habitat.

I am an educator at the Ambassador School of Global Leadership and I teach journalism, history and photography. Our school is one of six K-12 span schools that belong to the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex. The campus serves more than 4,200 students in Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second largest school district.

Members of the news media camped along Catalina Street as early as 4:30 a.m. to broadcast the historic opening day of the campus. The site has been the center of public criticism because renovations of the former Ambassador Hotel totaled up to $578 million.

Critics say the school is an example of public waste and fiscal irresponsibility, given the loss of teacher jobs and instructional days. Monica Garcia, LAUSD board president, argues that the complex is an investment in a “world class education” and was funded by a voter-approved bond measure.

As the journalism adviser, I was more interested in getting to know my students and what they thought about the media coverage.

“What is the news media saying about our school?” I asked.

“They are saying that our school is costing a lot of money,” freshman Guillermo said.

Another student chimed in.  “Brian was interviewed!”

“The reporters asked me how I felt,” junior Brian said. “I said I was nervous but I was looking forward to learning new subjects and meeting my teachers.”

I told my students that as members of the journalism class, they would not only be involved in interpreting the news, they would be in charge of making the news.  I am teaching an Intro to Journalism class, which will be responsible for publishing a monthly newspaper starting next school year.

As the adviser, I have been fortunate enough to receive support from multiple sources and organizations.  I am currently being mentored by Jolene Combs, a JEA mentor who teaches at El Camino College and co-chairs the JEA Anaheim Conference.

In addition, I am a part of the McCormick Team, a network of LAUSD journalism advisers supported by a grant from the California Scholastic Journalism Initiative.  The Student Voice Project has also agreed to partner with our school to offer curriculum that is aligned with CA ELA standards and provide limited funding.  This summer, I attended ASNE Reynolds High School Journalism Institute.

I am excited to guide my students as they research, write and report stories that matter to their community.   I think my students are excited too.

“I want to learn about writing techniques and editing techniques in my Journalism class,” junior Soffy said in a class assignment.  “I really want for readers to recognize who wrote the “article they liked” from newspaper, to newspaper. I obviously want my readers to like what I write, and to want more and more!”

Links to videos:

School Year Starts

RFK assassination site revived as school campus