Sydney Kamlager-Dove (File Photo)

When the Los Angeles Times reported on homeless students in the Los Angeles Community College District, it raised a few eyebrows. It said that nearly one in five students had experienced homelessness in the past 12 months.

How does a student who is homeless even go to school, much less thrive?

That’s just one question that faces the big, complex Los Angeles Community College District every day. 80% of the district is non-white, thousands of students live in or near poverty and many are the first in their families to even go to college.

For many of its students, it represents the first, second, and sometimes the last leg of a journey into the middle class.

The work is important–critically important.

When the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees elects its new President next week, they have a chance to make a statement–they can elect a leader who both looks like and understands the students the district serves.

Why is it important? The new President will become the face of the district, and with nearly four out of five students coming from minority backgrounds, that face should reflect the composition of the colleges. That’s why we are urging the LACCD Board of Trustees to elevate Sydney Kamlager-Dove to its presidency.

There are so many good reasons for making this important decision. Let me list a few.

Ms. Kamlager-Dove is the current First Vice-President of the LACCD Board of Trustees and understands how this complex and far flung district operates.  She has over 20 years of experience in public policy, legislative affairs, and communications. Since being elected, she made an immediate imprint on the district and its students by working to identify and create services for the large number of homeless, single mothers and other adversely impacted populations that make up the LACCD student body.

It’s those populations that must be better served so that more can be prepared to transfer to four-year colleges and universities, successfully complete workforce development programs and pursue opportunities for lifelong learning and civic engagement.

Ms. Kamlager-Dove’s focus has always been about student success. She knows that education changes everything–and for students in LACCD that is especially true.

As a Community Civil Rights Leader, I work every day to improve lives of Community members, workers and their families. Watching Sydney Kamlager-Dove tirelessly do the same for the students of this district is why I feel so strongly that she is should become the next Board President.

How do we collectively elevate workers into living wage careers that will be sustained by our local economies? We do it through education. We do it through leadership. Sydney has quietly and systematically worked to reconnect disparate entities back to the district. Connecting the courts system to the nine colleges; initiating a collaboration between LA Trade Tech and Southwest College to bring vocational training to Southwest that would feed into careers at LAX; supporting a resolution to ensure the safety of DACA and mixed-status students while on district campuses; and finding $10 million in State funding to re-establish the district’s Umoja program, to help African American males persist and complete their education. Sydney is fighting for this district.

And there’s one more thing:

The LACCD Board of Trustees has not had an African American women representative as President in over 30 years. By electing the current First Vice-President, we can send the message to the students from the nine colleges within LACCD that they too can make it to the top. They too can succeed. Through these actions we will be able to educate and promote this tremendous value, and showcase the district’s accomplishments.

Elect Sydney Kamlager-Dove today to celebrate the community and representation you want to see in tomorrow. It will be a step forward for the Los Angeles Community Colleges and the students they serve.

Rev. William D. Smart, President and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) of Southern California

SCLC-SC is a 54 year old social justice juggernaut which works to improve the condition of the impoverished. It is governed by a board of business professionals, educators, religious leaders and community organizers committed to closing the economic gap between minorities and mainstream majority.

Laphonza Butler, Provisional President of SEIU Local 2015

The Service Employees International Union is an organization of 2-million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide and dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society.