Click on the picture and go to timestamp 6:30 to view Ameera’s testimony.
My name is Ameera Sullivan and I am here today on behalf of the Strawberry Mansion.
Community of alumni and current students. I am a proud 2006 graduate of Strawberry Mansion High School under the leadership of the late Louise Mondesire. I am also currently the PROUD 9th grade counselor for Strawberry Mansion High School and it has been an honor to serve the students of this community and to give back to a school who has given me so much.
During my time as a student at Mansion, I dealt with some of the same issues the current students face: drug addiction, poverty, homelessness, incarcerated parents, raising siblings, and teen pregnancy to name a few. I myself, was a teen parent. I became pregnant with my daughter in the 9th grade. It was my 9th grade year that really shaped me into the person I am today. I was forced to grow up faster than my friends but the educators that taught me, refused to let me fail. Fast forward three years, I walked across the stage at Temple’s Liacouras Center along with over 200+ classmates cheering me on, as well as my 3-year old daughter. I was able to get through all four years at Mansion by way of sports, clubs, educators who were nurturing, but most of all consistency of the adults in my life.
Coming into the counseling role I was ecstatic about making positive change, I was ready for the challenge and I was committed. This is my second year and it is eye opening and disheartening. The low morale of the students and teachers and a lack of activities for the students to engage in created a toxic learning environment. I keep my yearbook on display in my office to show my students the Strawberry Mansion I once knew. There was an abundant of opportunities such as; basketball, volleyball, track, bowling, karate, African Dance, and JROTC. We also had Student Government, AP classes, an honors track, dual enrollment programs, Teen Elect, Yearbook Committee as well as a host of other things. My point is, there was always something to do or a program to be involved in at The Mansion. My students today do not have these opportunities. We have always been on an unleveled playing field.
I know our school has received extra funding to “turn-around” the school, but all I’ve seen is people come into our building who may not show a common interest for the students, the school, or the community. Strawberry Mansion receives teachers who were forced transferred from other schools, students who were kicked out of other schools, and students who are recently released from placement including mental health facilities, jail, and homelessness. We have a revolving door because we don’t have a say of who comes into the school. Our school is like a revolving door of staff and students which is a major disruption of their learning environment. In order to make Strawberry Mansion great again, we MUST invest in the community and invest in the students. We need teachers who are prepared for the challenge, seasoned, veterans. We need programs to incentivize student learning. Repurposing the school sounds great on paper but what does that mean for our children who don’t have the option to attend other high schools? Has anyone asked the community about how they felt about farming our students to other high schools outside of their neighborhood. Key points to consider with the repurposing of Strawberry Mansion High School:
1. This is a disruption of the family. Some of our students have been tasked with taking their siblings to school in the morning or picking them up from daycare
2. Many of our students reside with grandparents who live in the community and may encounter issues of getting to another school in case of emergencies (Traveling abilities & Emergencies)
3. Our students do not travel to certain areas due to safety concerns and will possibly become a target due to being an “outsider”.
4. The attendance/lateness/truancy will occur (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs)
5. Travel itself is a deterrent of students attending school. We have a lot of students who do not live 1.4 miles away from the school to receive a transpass and they have to decide whether to spend my last $3 getting to school or eating dinner when they get home
Thank you for your time,
Ameera Sullivan, M.A.