Above, Mayor Eric Garcetti stands beside Jefrey Antonio Galeanos after a Student Recovery Day visit to his South Los Angeles home. Also pictured are Superintendent Michelle King, School Board President Steve Zimmer, Board Member Scott Schmerelson and Erika Torres, executive director of Student Health and Human Services. (Photo by David Escobar)

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Jefrey Antonio Galeanos decided to go back to school after meeting with Superintendent Michelle King, Board Member Scott Schmerelson and Board President Steve Zimmer. (Photo by Benjamin Siu)

By Benjamin Siu
Office of Communications

It took a private, emotion-filled conversation with the L.A. Unified superintendent, two School Board members and the mayor of Los Angeles, but Jefrey Antonio Galeanos decided Friday that it was time to go back to school.

During the half-hour conversation in the South Los Angeles home where Galeanos lives with his grandmother, the high school dropout heard assurances that the District would help him re-enroll in school and provide resources to help him earn his diploma. Two other relatives living in the home also were persuaded to return to school.

“This is the city of second chances,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti, who joined with Superintendent Michelle King, Board President Steve Zimmer and Board Member Scott Schmerelson in contacting Galeanos, 19, who quit school so that he could get a job and send money home to his mother in Guatemala.

Messages of support and encouragement were repeated countless times on Friday as volunteers and L.A. Unified officials contacted dropouts and students at risk of dropping out during during the District’s eighth annual Student Recovery Day. Since the initiative was launched in 2008, nearly 4,900 students have returned to school in L.A. Unified.

Deputy School Police Chief JoAnna Fontenette and Patsy Cruz, who plans to attend art school after graduating from high school in December.,
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Deputy School Police Chief JoAnna Fontenette and Patsy Cruz, who plans to attend art school after graduating from high school in December. (Photo by David Escobar)

“When students know that they are important enough for us to show up at their door, they almost always come back to school,” said Zimmer, a former high school counselor and the co-creator of Student Recovery Day.

“We are here today because we want you to be successful, and to let you know that we have resources available to help you and your family,” said Erika Torres, the newly appointed executive director of Student Health and Human Services, the division responsible for the District’s dropout efforts.

This year’s event started with a press conference at West Adams Preparatory High School, where five students former dropouts described how Student Recovery Day efforts have helped turn their lives around.

Patsy Cruz, now attending Metropolitan High School, said she had dropped out when she and her family suffered hardships after losing their home. Cruz credited her mother and Shelly Alavez, a Pupil Services and Attendance counselor, for encouraging her to go back to school. Cruz will receive her diploma in December and plans to attend art school in Los Angeles or New York, studying illustration and animation.

“Making mistakes doesn’t mean we should give up on ourselves,” Cruz said.

Randy Banks Jr., who spent time in a juvenile justice facility, was persuaded to enroll in Johnston Community Day School, and he graduated this year with his peers. He is now enrolled at L.A. Harbor College, with aspirations to become a probation officer.

Glenda Abrego describes how she struggled to complete her education after immigrating by herself from El Salvador.
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Glenda Abrego describes how she struggled to complete her education after immigrating by herself from El Salvador. (Photo by David Escobar)

Chad Kimo Tim Sing Melendez also was headed for trouble, but was diverted into the Central Academy Alternative Education Program for Probation Youth. He is a student leader on campus, and is set to graduate early next year.

Glenda Abrego is a teenage immigrant from El Salvador, who received help from District PSA counselors in finding housing, financial support and legal aid that allowed her to return to school. After graduating in 2018 from West Adams Preparatory High, she hopes to become an FBI agent.

And Angela Martinez dropped out after falling behind on credits. She is now back at West Adams Prep and taking supplemental classes on Saturday.

“The West Adams faculty were key in my returning to school and achieving my academic goals,” said Martinez, who wants to become a marriage and family therapist.

In addition to the student recovery efforts around West Adams Prep, L.A. Unified also engaged in the neighborhoods around Washington Preparatory,  Canoga Park, Helen Bernstein, Linda Esparanza Marquez, Sun Valley and Mervyn M. Dymally High schools. An estimated 230 volunteers made 66 home visits.

“It’s about reconnection and re-engagement and giving them the resources to graduate,” King said.