Things That Matter

Here’s Why Roxana Dueñas, A Teacher In Boyle Heights, Became The Face Of The LA Teachers’ Strike

Roxana Dueñas remembers walking through the streets of Boyle Heights to get to school. She attended Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, which was the site of the 1968 walkouts. During the 1968 walkouts, Chicano students protested unequal treatment. Today, Dueñas is walking those same streets leading a new protest but this time as a teacher. She is one of the thousands of teachers striking on behalf of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) as they seek higher pay and better classroom conditions. She has also quickly become the face of the LA teachers strike as her image has been seen on posters, billboards, and classroom walls across Southern California.

Roxana Dueñas is steadfast and determined in the LA Teachers Strike poster urging people to “Stand With LA Teachers!”

CREDIT: Credit: UTLA

Dueñas, 34, has taught history and ethnic studies at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights for the past nine years. Growing up in the neighborhood was a big reason she wanted to return and teach there after graduating from UCLA with her master’s in education. It was her time at UC Santa Barbara, however, where she learned about Chicano studies and how was she was devoid of the history that happened at her own high school.

“My high school experience was positive for the most part but when I took my first ethnic study class in college I learned that my high school was part of the Chicano walkouts,” Dueñas said. “They never taught us about it and it made me realize not everyone had the same experience as me growing up.”

That’s why she made it a mission to create a learning environment where students could learn about their culture. In 2014, her and two other teachers created an ethnic studies curriculum that taught students about the local Chicano history that happened in their neighborhood. Her colleagues and students acknowledge her commitment and passion for teaching, it’s also a big reason why she was chosen to be highlighted on a poster.

Ernesto Yereno, a local Boyle Heights artist, chose to highlight Dueñas because he knew what her image represents in the majority Latino school district.

CREDIT: Credit: Ernesto Yerena

Yerena, who has a studio in Boyle Heights, met Dueñas after realizing they had mutual friends and shared similar views. After the UTLA approached him about creating some work for their campaign, he knew Dueñas was the perfect embodiment of what the strike should be representing.

“Roxy is an awesome teacher and an even better person. A lot of the kids look up to her in the community,” Yerena said. “I knew what impact she would have so it was a no-doubter to have her as the face of the strike.”

The 32-year-old artist specializes in political art, particularly work that highlights Latino people and culture. He says that highlighting a person of color is important especially in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), where less than 11 percent of students are white and 66 percent of teachers are people of color.

“A lot of times people tell me they see themselves in my work and, as brown people, we never see someone like us so when they do its a big deal,” he said. “Representation matters especially a majority Latino area like this. Growing up all I had were white teachers so Roxy is a mirror image of who she is standing up for on the picket lines.”

Dueñas recalls two young girls asking to take a picture with her and having her one of her students show the poster as her lock-screen image. “To me it’s unbelievable and it empowering to see young girls look up to you. It makes me feel like we’re on the right side.”

Dueñas says she is humbled by the artwork and wants it to remind people of the importance of the changing demographics in this country.

CREDIT: CREDIT: Empan16/Twitter

When asked what it means to not only be the face of the strike but have it be a Latina, Dueñas said she hopes it’s the start of a shift in representation.

“I’m optimistic,” she says. “It means there’s a change in terms of the demographics of our teachers and the students they serve in their communities nationwide.”

She acknowledges that school is more than just a place to learn for many students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The majority of students are low-income as more than 80 percent of its students get free or reduced-price lunches. Parents use school as daycare, a place where their children get fed and foster relationships with teachers especially here in East LA.

“That’s the driving force behind our school site. They are more than just academic learning centers but a place where they foster relationships with teachers,” Dueñas said. “You can’t serve without observing the other. These things are interconnecting and our young people have a broad range of needs.”

The LA Teachers Strike has brought support from students and parents that Dueñas says reminds her of why she got into teaching in the first place.

CREDIT: Credit: Twitter/JosephBrusky

“It all has definitely been humbling and really its surreal to see my face everywhere,” Dueñas said. “I was pouring rain the first four days of the strike and we had parents and students come by to show their support, I can’t put that into words.”

Dueñas, whose father was a cook and had a stay-at-home mom who immigrated from Mexico, says she’s been approached by many parents thanking her for taking a stand for their children’s education. She understands the sentiment and the responsibility she has not only as a teacher but as a role model in the working class neighborhood she grew up in.

As union leaders and teachers reached an agreement after six days of picketing, Dueñas says addressing issues like smaller class sizes and hiring more support staff is more imperative than ever. She says the strike was bigger than just one demand but an attempt to transform a place of learning especially in communities of color like Boyle Heights.

“When I see my students for the first time after the strike ends, I want to tell them one thing,” Dueñas said. “I want them to see that organizing works and I hope more importantly they can see themselves making a difference in their own community.”


READ: As LA Teachers Go Into The Second Day Of Their Strike, A GoFundMe Campaign Is Bringing Tacos To The Picket Lines

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A Judge Has Ruled That The University of California System Can No Longer Use SAT And ACT Tests For Admissions And It’s A Huge Win For The Underprivileged

Things That Matter

A Judge Has Ruled That The University of California System Can No Longer Use SAT And ACT Tests For Admissions And It’s A Huge Win For The Underprivileged

Kevork Djansezian / Getty

Advocates against the use of standardized tests for college admissions have long argued that the use of such exams sets back students from underprivileged backgrounds and those who have disabilities. Aware of the leg up it gives to privileged and non-disabled students an advantage in the admittance process, they’ve rallied for schools to end such practices.

And it looks like they’ve just won their argument.

A judge has ruled that the University of California system can no longer use ACT and SAT tests as part of their admissions process.

Brad Seligman is the Alameda County Superior Court Judge who issued the preliminary injunction in the case of Kawika Smith v. Regents of the University of California on Tuesday. The plaintiffs in Kawika Smith v. Regents of the University of California include five students and six organizations College Access Plan, Little Manila Rising, Dolores Huerta Foundation, College Seekers, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and Community Coalition.

In his decision, Judge Seligman underlined that the UC system’s “test-optional” policy on UC campuses has long given privileged and non-disabled students a chance at a “second look” in the admissions process. According to Seligman, this “second look” denies such opportunities to students who are unable to access the tests.

The decision is a major victory for students with disabilities and from underprivileged backgrounds.

News of the decision comes on the heels of the university system’s ruling to waive the standardized testing requirements until 2024.

In May, a news release asserted that if a new form of a standardized test had not been developed by 2025, the system would have to put an end to the testing requirement for California students. On Monday, the judge’s ruling took things further by banning the consideration of scores from students who submit them all together.

“The current COVID 19 pandemic has resulted in restrictions in the availability of test sites,” Seligman wrote in his ruling. “While test-taking opportunities for all students have been limited, for persons with disabilities, the ability to obtain accommodations or even to locate suitable test locations for the test is ‘almost nil.'”

A spokesperson for the University of California said the university “respectfully disagrees with the Court’s ruling.”

“An injunction may interfere with the University’s efforts to implement an appropriate and comprehensive admissions policies and its ability to attract and enroll students of diverse backgrounds and experiences,” the spokesperson said. According to the spokesperson, the UC system is considering further legal action in the case. The system said that its testing has allowed for an increase in admission of low-income and first-generation-to-college-students for the fall of 2020.

With UC being the largest university system in the country, Seligman’s ruling is a massive deal. Students and advocates have long fought for the elimination of these standardized tests arguing that they do not accurately reflect a student’s academic ability.

“Research has repeatedly proved that students from wealthy families score higher on the SAT and ACT, compared to students from low-income families,” reports CNN. It’s important to note that the analysis by Inside Higher Ed revealed that the “lowest average scores for each part of the SAT came from students with less than $20,000 in family income. The highest scores came from those with more than $200,000 in family income.”

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AOC’s Quote About Being The Only Daughter In A Latino Household Is Getting Latinas Fired Up

Fierce

AOC’s Quote About Being The Only Daughter In A Latino Household Is Getting Latinas Fired Up

Brittany Greeson / Getty

As young Latinos, there’s no denying the fact that learning to fold our family culture into the customs we acquire as Americans can shape our abilities to handle pressure. In the process of assimilation, we learn how to meet the demands of our parents and our peers all the while juggling the everyday expectations we shoulder while in school.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez knows all about managing these expectations. Last year, while addressing the media’s desire to see her pursue her career and fulfill societal expectations of her personal life (AKA get married) the politician reminded her followers that she can handle pressure because she grew up in a Latino household.

To boot, she was the only daughter in her home.

But what about the rest of us?

Those of us who maybe aren’t quite yet thriving politicians but manage to succeed in our everyday lives and do it all? We asked Latinas on FIERCE about how they’re able to relate to AOC’s comments and the responses were not only enlightening but a good reminder of Latina strength.

“And the oldest for that matter!! You not only learn to be tough, but also to be resourceful and amazingly great at delegating.” – emramirez1

“So true ughh the oldest child the only female and the first American born and the first to go to college oyeeeee the PRESSURE #mujerfuerte AINT NO ONE CAN TAKE ME DOWN lol por que our familia made us strong!” –paulinacastrellon

“Or the OLDEST daughter.” –m0zz_

“And be a food server for many years…” –kimoti_87

“Only daughter and only child! Thats some other level of #latinohousehold.” –wellnessparalamama

“Or a daughter in a Latino household with a strict father period!” –elliev03

“Look i went through allot and none of it made me stronger im a very shaky person theres a difference between trauma and tough love , i think she had tough love trauama fucks u up.” –__head___in___the____clouds__

“Oldest daughter, of 3 girls! You are the example!” – _cynnrenee

“I only wish the means to becoming tough and handle pressure for a Latina daughter didn’t root in traumatic machismo (male chauvinism) and systematic inequalities experiences. Surely there are ways to learn to have an affirmative tone and handle pressure without the trauma.” – marimukkii

“Or just being in a Latina household, period.” –mar_knut

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