How ‘School Choice’ Positively Changed My Life

National School Choice Week was January 23-29, 2022. Governors across the country had declared School Choice Week in their own states. But, due to the political dynamics of California politics, my repeated requests for Governor Gavin Newsom to follow their lead were bound to be fruitless. I was very pleased to see Assemblyman Kevin Kiley introduce a resolution related to School Choice Week, but the fact I didn’t see any Democrat politicians mention anything about School Choice Week nationwide was disheartening. Nonetheless, even if California didn’t celebrate School Choice Week, it made me reflect on my own School Choice Story.

Here’s why: I am a product of School Choice. There are multiple forms of school choice: public, private, charter, parochial, and homeschool. But within the public school system, there’s a form of school choice called Magnet Schools. This means a student can attend a school that they weren’t assigned to via their zip code. To attend a Magnet School, you either receive admission through a lottery system or through merit. Magnet schools each have a unique academic focus to draw the attention of prospective students and families: performing arts, sports, STEM, career and education, etc. The benefits of Magnet School include diversity, access to network, and innovative curriculums.

In third grade, I had a teacher who uplifted me when she saw my academic excellence and my interest in visual arts. She recommended to my parents that I should apply to a visual and performing arts program. Unknowingly, I was already attending the Magnet School: Mendoza Elementary. I was accepted, and I was part of the Visual and Performing Arts Program from fourth through sixth grade. It was a rigorous experience because I had more homework than my peers outside of that program. I had classmates who lived in the school district but drove to Mendoza Elementary instead of the school that was a little closer to them. As far as performing goes, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in vocal music, dancing, and visual arts. I attended musicals around San Diego, and I was surrounded by individuals who wanted to express themselves through the arts.

When I was in sixth grade, I had a choice to make: continue pursuing the Magnet School route or go to the assigned public school. The class that was two grades above me came to visit my class before graduation. They continued down the Magnet School program: going to Chula Vista Middle and Chula Vista High. These Magnet Schools in the Sweetwater Union High School District were known for their performing arts program. They shared they all auditioned and got accepted into the show choir at Chula Vista High: The Main Attraction.

This was a pivotal moment for me. I decided to continue the Magnet School route and apply. I got accepted and continued my journey in the performing arts. It was a longer drive for my parents than my assigned public school, but it was worth it to pursue my interests in vocal music. I was not only a member of the chamber choir and then eventually The Main Attraction. I was also involved in other extracurricular activities like Class President for all 4 years, Associated Student Body, sports, founding the school’s first KIWIN’S club, and the California Scholarship Federation.

While a longer commute was required, Chula Vista High had a superior academic record compared to the district’s other schools. In addition, with the performing arts, I grew my soft skills. I was a shy girl that blossomed into a woman of strength who takes the initiative with everything that she does because of my experiences in performing. I learned teamwork, the power of perseverance, and the power of having a vision for your life. My life would have been different if I didn’t go to Magnet Schools and benefit from School Choice. I was in an environment that helped prepare me for higher education because I was surrounded by people from different walks of life economically, socially, and academically. I was challenged with vigorous schedules that gave me an area of opportunity to see how college might be.

On paper, I should have been a statistic, but I am not a victim. Children are deserving of being placed in environments that give them the best opportunity to be successful. What we know is when children are not put in these environments, they become a problem for society. They could be the ones committing crimes and impacting people they do not know. Thus, it would behoove you to care about school choice within Magnet Schools even if these children are not your own. To add to this, it’s an altruistic thing to consider the needs of our future generations. The students today will grow up to become our future leaders of tomorrow.

On that same note, nothing is ever a guarantee. But the hearts and souls of children are a gamble worth betting on. It’s also upon the families and educators to foster a culture of possibilities for students in school systems. Although Magnet Schools are a unique choice, what’s important is giving students options. In California, we are working to provide choices for all students by opening up an Education Savings Account for every child in the state so we can fund students over school systems.

The California School Choice Foundation is advocating for the qualification of a voter initiative “The Education Freedom Act” for the November 2022 election.

Sign up to volunteer and print the petition at home to add a constitutional amendment to the California Constitution for the 2022 Ballot by the April 11th deadline.

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