On Thursday, August 30, Alliance Virgil Roberts Leadership Academy (AVRLA), a middle school in South L.A., celebrated its naming ceremony after civil rights leader, attorney, and Alliance founding board member, Virgil Roberts. He shared how he felt being honored by such a ceremony.
“It’s really gratifying,” said Roberts. I’m really proud of what we are doing for the kids in our community.”
“I have known Virgil Roberts since I started working with the Alliance in 2005,” said AVRLA principal, Joy May-Harris.
“He has always been about children’s academic success. He’s been on our board since the beginning and in the trenches even before the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools started.
“I feel honored and blessed that our school has be given this naming opportunity, especially considering where we are located.
“As we say at AVRLA- which is a quote from Virgil himself- ‘Your Life. Your Legacy.’”
Roberts has been working in school reform since he represented the NAACP and the Los Angeles school district in the famous Crawford v Board of Education case, 40 years ago.
He has been involved with Alliance since 2004 and comments that when Alliance started, graduation rates in high schools in Los Angeles were less than fifty percent. According to Roberts, over ninety-five percent of Alliance students graduate and go on to higher education.
“The segregation case was all about trying to bring educational equity to kids that were in South Los Angeles,” said Roberts. “We are doing that with the Alliance schools—it’s really changed the trajectory for a lot of Black and Brown kids in South Los Angeles.”
Alliance College-Ready Public Schools are one of the largest and most successful nonprofit charter school networks in the nation, operating 25 high-performing, public charter middle and high schools that educate nearly 13,000 scholars from Los Angeles’ most underserved communities. The Alliance schools have been recognized as among the best in the nation by US News & World Report, Newsweek, the U.S. Department of Education and the California Department of Education.
“I really felt honored to have the school named after me because it’s a school that really stands for what I think is so important for our youth,” said Roberts.
May-Harris is going on her third year as principal at AVRLA and is former founding principal at Alliance Jack H. Skirball Middle School in Watts. She echoes the same pride and belief in what Alliance is doing for youth in the community.
“AVRLA creates total school environment that sets to establish clear common goals for all students, build morale, and create a comfortable, yet effective learning environment,” said May-Harris.
“We promote student achievement by monitoring school data, making recommendations for improvement, and providing visionary leadership in the areas of technology and digital learning.
“We are working hard to increase student literacy for Black and Brown kids in our community, and to be technologically proficient while doing so within a blended learning environment.”
Roberts took time to speak on matters he found disconcerting when it comes to the importance of education within the Black community. He pointed out the continued existence of old stereotypes within the community.
“I’ve been really disappointed with what’s happening, especially in the Black community,” said Roberts.
“In the world we live in, the key to a better life is being educated but we seem to be going backwards in celebrating ignorance.
“You can talk to kids in the community and a lot of times folks are embarrassed to be seen taking books home to study.
“That negative stereotype that we’re supposed to be dumb—it’s almost like you’re not a down brother if you’re not dumb.
AVRLA celebrates education and instills that into their student body, which both Roberts and May-Harris agree is how you change the community. They are both dedicated to the legacy AVRLA can have within the community in creating leaders for tomorrow.
“When you come to our school, everybody talks about the need and importance of going to college,” said Roberts.
“I want the parents in that Hyde Park neighborhood to say I didn’t have to send my kids to [sic] to get a good education.
“They’re getting one right around the corner, down the street.”
“I want students to leave AVRLA reading and writing proficiently, on or above grade level, with CAASPP proficiency being the norm,” said May-Harris.
“I want them to embrace mathematics, be full participants in a democracy, and be STEM ready for college and the workforce.
“Social justice and economics go hand-in-hand.”
For more information on Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, please visit www.laalliance.org. You may also call at (213) 943-4930