These students are graduating from FREE LA High School (Fighting for the Revolution to Educate and Empower Los Angeles) while also helping to support their families, getting up in darkness to get younger brothers and sisters to school, working hard to get off Probation or Parole, and crossing borders with cement walls and razor wire (whether those borders separate parents from children in foster care, incarcerated youth from opportunities outside, or separate families across national boundaries). Some are raising their own children. Some leave school to go to a full-time job at night.
All came back to high school – some with zero credits – after traditional schools pushed them out, suspended, expelled, arrested and sometimes incarcerated them. Even when teachers, principals, Probation officers, and even some family and friends told them that a high school diploma was not in their future, they dared to believe that it was possible.
Now they are graduating, and even more important, they are excited about what comes after graduation. But, most impressive, these graduates have accepted that their own progress is not enough. They have helped to lead work to dismantle the school to jail track; challenge gang databases and injunctions; end the use of solitary confinement and expose the inhumanity of conditions inside juvenile halls, jails and prisons; and to confront police violence.
We also check back in with Francisco, a member of FREE LA High School’s Class of 2015, to see what he’s been up to since graduation.