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Steven Almazan: Taking your fight for equity home

  • Steven Almazan

For Steven Almazan, making a difference in his home state is part of what drives his work.

Explain what led you to care deeply about educational equity. What personal values, experiences or beliefs inform this?

I was born and raised in Boyle Heights, where statistics show that less than 5% of community members have a college degree. Growing up, I didn’t realize that I lived in a low-income neighborhood in what was considered the gang capital of the United States. It was not until I attended the University of Southern California that I learned about the inequities that exist in Boyle Heights.

During an American Studies course titled, “Race and Class in Los Angeles,” Dr. George Sánchez highlighted the racially-unjust policies that were implemented in Boyle Heights in regards to education, housing, urban development, transportation, and environmental health outcomes​. Imagine. I’m an 18-year old student of color in a lecture hall that is filled predominantly white students from affluent background, and we’re talking about my neighborhood as a case study. It was this college course that motivated me to invest deeply in achieving educational equity for students of color.

How has LEE helped you in your mission to end educational inequity?

LEE has helped me in my mission to end educational inequity by providing me unparalleled professional development opportunities. I was fortunate to be selected as the Policy & Advocacy Summer Fellow in 2014 with Los Angeles Unified School District board member Mónica García. This fellowship experience provided me the opportunity to work directly with an elected leader of color that I wholeheartedly admire and respect.

My manager and LEE coach exposed me to research and policy writing opportunities at the second largest school district in the country, and truly changed my professional trajectory to one day become a public policy professional. LEE has also provided networking opportunities with passionate and aspiring education leaders through my participation in the National Policy and Advocacy Workshop. I met many of my close friends and mentors through these LEE programs.

Tell us about your current role. What’s a typical day like? What is the impact you’re having on educational equity?

I am currently the managing director of external affairs with Educators for Excellence — Los Angeles. Through this role, I work with teachers to learn about and contribute actively to district and state policy discussions affecting their classrooms and careers. I also lead the organization's communications and partner-outreach efforts.

I am leading and designing our Policy & Advocacy Team program, which includes about 20 Los Angeles teachers who are excited about using the power of grassroots organizing to champion teacher-generated policy ideas. Our teachers will meet for several weeks during the spring to create policy recommendations and draft an advocacy campaign to empower state, district, and union leaders​ ​to​ ​address​ ​one​ ​of​ ​our​ ​city’s​ ​most​ ​pressing​ ​policy​ ​issues. Most recently, our teachers crafted policy recommendations that influenced Assemblymember Shirley Weber to author The Teacher and Student Success Act (AB 1220), an assembly bill that reinforces the state’s commitment to strengthen and support the teaching profession.

What is your vision for ending educational inequity in the U.S.?

As a native Angeleno and a product of the Los Angeles education system, I confronted systemic injustices, barriers, and policies that have historically prevented black and brown students from succeeding and thriving in working-class neighborhoods across California. In order to truly end educational inequity in the U.S., we need to strategically and heavily invest in the leadership of community members of color who are most affected by policies that prevent them from breaking down multi-generational poverty.

As a country, we need to develop multi-generational workforce pipelines for leaders of color to truly lead educational efforts in underserved and disenfranchised communities. People most directly impacted by educational inequity need to collectively work together to design and implement policy strategies and campaigns that can elevate the support of our most vulnerable communities.

What do you see as your role in achieving this vision?

I aspire to break down the systemic injustices, barriers, and policies that prevent students of color from succeeding and thriving in working-class neighborhoods, like my own in Boyle Heights. My experience as a local community organizer, special education teacher, education policy expert, and public servant has helped cement my purpose in life to develop effective, efficient, and equitable policies that lift working-class families out of poverty and into prosperity.

My professional aspirations are centered and fixated on the success of students and teachers in Los Angeles. In order to meet my professional aspirations and achieve my vision for educational equity, I will continue to develop authentic relationships with LEE members across California. No one can work on this alone. We need the support and expertise of others in this work to truly break down multi-generational poverty and plant the seeds for generations of excellence.