School pride runs deep at Audubon Middle School (AMS) in L.A.’s Leimert Park. Not only do students love the fabled campus, but also 12 staff members proudly embrace the title of AMS alumni.
The employees hold a range of positions at the school and while returning to work at AMS was not intentional, all of the employees agree that they are grateful to guide a younger generation in the same institution where they received their educational foundation.
“I think coming back to Audubon and being an academic counselor here is surreal, [but] at the same time, it’s an honor to be here and be of service to the community where I grew up,” said Alexis Flenori, a 1990 graduate.
Describing her enjoyment, teacher Kafayat Tijani, a 1994 alumnus, said, “For me, it was very exciting, especially when I returned, there were teachers who were still here who had taught me.”
Among those former staff that taught the 12 alumni and are still employed at Audubon are Winford Abraham, Brenda Bright, Kevin Dailey, Cassandra Mae, Vera Parker, Guy Reed and Lori Walker.
“I’ve always felt that I got so much from Audubon, that it was my goal to give the students what I received,” Tijani said.
The staff’s enthusiasm fits in well with Audubon’s mission “to effectively educate students for participation in a 21st century global economy and provide the technological skills needed for the production of work; world languages for effective communication and critical thinking skills.”
The commitment to effective education has continued at AMS since it opened in 1929 and the current staff demonstrates that dedication well beyond their job description. Many alumni noted that assuming multiple roles is key to successfully dealing with a multi-ethnic student body of 500+ youngsters in grades 6-to-8.
Typhanie Willock-Bogard, a member of AMS’ class of 1993, referred to her teaching position as “wearing many hats. We’re mothers, sisters, counselors, and teachers and I feel like that is our due diligence to Audubon and the neighboring community. That’s our duty to fulfill.”
Offering a similar outlook, special education trainee Marcus Mason, also a 1993 graduate, said, “We’re a community as a whole. I feel that we must be consistent and not let the workload get to you, because there is a reward for doing this work. It’s for the kids and for the community.”
Part of the reward for their efforts is witnessing many students going on to achieve greater heights. As
counselor Dorlisa Shumate related, Audubon’s “rich history” includes several notable people.
“We have so many professionals and outstanding individuals that have come out of Audubon,” shared Shumate, a 1998 graduate. “We have people like NBA player James Hardin, singer/songwriter Montell Jordan, and L.A. City Councilmember Curren Price Jr. That is what’s so phenomenal about our school!”
Teacher Olivia Fields, a 1966 alumnus, hopes some of those achievers will visit Audubon and tell students about their journey to an accomplished career.
“We need professionals to come to this school and give back. We need our students to see people that look like them that are successful – doctors, lawyers, architects – who are graduates of this school. I think the more that the more children see people that look like them, they have a better chance of succeeding in the future,” said Fields.
In the meantime, the 12 alumni remain determined to give their best efforts to Audubon Middle School students. According to assistant plant manager Raymond Duronslet, “Everyday I come to work is a win-win. I get to do a job that I enjoy and I get to keep this school clean and maintained.
The class of 1987 graduate added, “We put love into the campus so that the kids can see that and they put love into the campus and it continues to spread. It’s a plus coming back to my school.”
His words prompted nods of agreement from other AMS alumni employed by the school including teacher Pamela Jones, class of 1986; office technician Aide Ramirez, class of 2006; special education teacher Yolanda Vance, class of 1975; office technician Frank Vargas, class of 2013; and teacher Jakesha Williams-Watson, class of 1993.
Summing up the staff’s devotion, teacher Tijani declared, “Everyone has great intentions here. They come here everyday and they worked very hard. Anyone who crosses the threshold of Audubon is family and we will take care of them.”