Few would have faulted LEE member Amanda Spoto if she had chosen to spend her Saturday somewhere else. The Los Angeles sun was shining, the weather seasonably warm.
It was, as some might say, a typical day in Southern California. But for Spoto and the nearly 100 members of the Los Angeles LEE community who attended LEE’s first-ever Issue Assembly, the day was anything but.
“One of the most powerful things about organizing is knowing that you’re part of a bigger group that is committed and has the same energy as you do,” she said.
The elementary gymnasium where LEE members gathered hummed with activity. Men and women of all ages and backgrounds brimmed with a sense of possibility for what they could achieve for kids together.
“What has impacted me most is the positive energy and the desire to get something done,” said Keith Dell’Aquilla, a member of the Regional Strategy Team that took the lead in organizing the Issue Assembly.
During the 4-hour event, members shared stories from their time in the classroom. They dug in on specific issues and spoke passionately about the challenges impacting children in communities across Los Angeles.
They engaged one another on shared concerns, identified shared issues, and began to discover and understand the potential of what they were building together.
“Seeing people who have that same level of excitement brings a collective energy that’s greater than anything a small group of people can do,” said another LEE member, Kerrie Wilcox.
By the end of the Assembly, members agreed to continue the work they had begun with the support of LEE’s regional director, Brent Tercero, and channel their collective energy behind 3 key issues: diversity in school discipline policy, excellence in teaching and learning, and schools as community hubs.
It wasn’t easy for LEE members to narrow a list of 30 issues raised over the course of 40 house meetings to just 3 – a fact readily acknowledged by all those who took part.
“People had issues they cared about, things they were angry about; but it was channeled into something positive,” said Dell’Aquilla. “I’ve got a few personal things I’d like to see done, but I can get behind any and all of these actions.”
Over the summer and into the fall, three teams will work together to research actions they can take together to move one or all three of the issues identified at the Issue Assembly forward.
“It’s a good start toward a bigger picture,” Spoto said.
Standing near the exit, visibly tired from a long day of activity, Dell’Aquilla – surprisingly – doesn’t appear rushed to leave and enjoy what’s left of his weekend.
Despite the beauty of the day, he seems genuinely happy to be right where he is.
“I’m excited to see how we can bring so many passionate, committed, intelligent people together to really do something for our kids,” he said.