LAUSD grad, from expulsion to ‘Youth Warrior Against Poverty’
Craig Clough | August 24, 2015
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For most kids, getting expelled in the seventh grade for bringing a weapon to school is the beginning of a sad story, the first step into the school-to-prison pipeline.
But for Eduardo Pacheco, a recent graduate of LA Unified’s Woodrow Wilson High School, it ended up being a low point from which he slowly rose to become an inspiring student leader and recent recipient of the Marguerite Casey Foundation’s 2015 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty award.
The $5,000 scholarship award honors 12 high students around the country for their vision, passion and dedication to improving the lives of families in their communities. Pacheco was recognized for work he did volunteering with Inner City Struggle and Brothers, Sons, Selves.
“When I heard I had won the Shriver award, I was astonished by it,” said Pacheco, who is now a freshman at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Pacheco said the money has gone toward rent and books.
Pacheco is the son of two Mexican immigrants, and his life growing up around east LA was often filled with economic struggles. In middle school he said he fell in with the wrong crowd, which is what led to his expulsion. But not long after, something happened that made him see his life and its potential in a different light: his older brother was accepted to UCLA.
“I knew I had to change my ways, it was a bad thing for me, and no good was going to be coming to my future,” he told LA School Report. ” But I saw my bother graduate and go to UCLA, one of the best schools in California and the country. I felt like he was unique because not everyone gets accepted there. It motivated me to thinking that I can maybe be unique too.”
During his sophomore year, Pacheco started attended after-school meetings of Inner City Struggle, a nonprofit that works to improve the Eastside of Los Angeles.
Pacheco soon became a leader within the group and helped lead a task force that explained LA Unified’s landmark Student Climate Bill of Rights to students and adults. The resolution, passed by the school board in 2013, sought to spur a significant reduction of suspensions and expulsions in the district.
“I think [the bill] is really great because it is giving every student a whole new different opportunity in school,” he said. “Because of the injustices they faced before, with the suspension rate because of willful defiance, it was outrageous. When I learned about it, I thought it was a great and that it would help a lot of other students, especially students in my shoes.”
Despite spending much of his spare time volunteering to help his community, Pacheco also tried to help his family. During lunch breaks, he rummaged through trash bins looking for cans and plastic bottles to sell for extra money. He also joined the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition, an organization that works to improve the lives of young men of color. Some of his work was in support of Proposition 47, a 2014 ballot initiative that reclassified some non-violent felonies and misdemeanors.
“Brothers, Sons Selves was a huge, different chapter. Not only was it a coalition that involved me organizing, but we had our own campaigns where we would go out with ideas to change,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco said his goal is to stay involved in community organizing. He is currently majoring in political science and said he hopes to earn a PhD.