Don’t leave vulnerable kids behind on academic journey

Evangeline Eo of Spanaway is pursuing a master’s degree in social work through the University of Southern California.
Evangeline Eo of Spanaway is pursuing a master’s degree in social work through the University of Southern California. Courtesy photo

As an Asian-American woman who was born, raised and educated in Southern California, moving to Spanaway in 2015 proved to be a different world entirely.

I found that the sun likes to play hide-and-seek, air conditioning is a luxury and drinking coffee a near-religious ritual.

Though Spanaway excels in beauty and grace, she is struggling when it comes to her A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s.

Last year I asked my local job supervisor to write a letter of recommendation. He asked what bachelor program I was applying to and was surprised when I told him I was applying for graduate school.

Among my friends in Southern California, getting a bachelor degree, followed by a master’s program, is expected. Here in Spanaway, it’s unusual.

Many vulnerable children from low-income and minority backgrounds suffer the most when it comes to their education. Of the nearly 30,000 residents living in Spanaway, 40 percent are minorities and nearly 13 percent live in poverty.

At Spanaway Lake High School, 57 percent of students are economically disadvantaged and minority students.

In other words, over half of those attending Spanaway Lake are struggling to further their education, let alone graduate, as their college readiness index scored an average of only 13.6. For every five students, one is bound to drop out.

These children are our sons and daughters, our future. As a parent, you have the right and duty to find a school you believe will best provide your child with the quality education they deserve, despite ethnic background or socio-economic status.

If we say our children represent the future, then we have the responsibility and moral obligation to invest in them, and it starts with education policy.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 may have been one of the most influential bills to affect education in America. It emphasized equal opportunity for our disadvantaged neighbors to excel academically, providing quality education for all.

Like any law, it had its faults and is constantly being amended to this day. This is where we have a voice to express our opinions.

The recently introduced school choice bill, House Resolution 716, known as the Enhancing Educational Opportunities for All Students Act, clarifies ambiguities in the law by ensuring federal resources be used to fund our local places of education based on the number of eligible students enrolled in private or public schools.

Furthermore, this bill clearly defines eligibility, which is inclusive of children age 5 to 17 years old living with families whose income level falls below the poverty line. In other words, it distributes funds to better promote equal opportunities of academic achievement despite one’s financial capabilities.

Minorities living in poverty need the most assistance with education. These federal funds will provide programs such as academic tutoring and special- needs services, along with supplies and other aid, to better support your children in their journey of academic success.

H.R. 716 may not only directly help your family but also teach you to love thy neighbor who may not be as fortunate.

You can make a difference by calling your representatives and elected officials in Congress and urging them to vote in favor of this bill.

Let’s praise our children for higher education. Let’s praise our children for academic success. Let’s make Spanaway beautiful both inside and out.

Evangeline C. Eo of Spanaway is a graduate student studying social work at University of Southern California through USC’s virtual academic center.