LEADING LENNOX WITH DRIVING PASSION

by Arts for All | Jan 17, 2013

“THE POLITICAL IS PERSONAL AND THE PERSONAL IS POLITCAL”

Marisol Cruz, 33 and the mother of two young boys, is the School Board President for the Lennox School District (an Arts for All district since 2009.)

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE SCHOOLS?
I have lived in Lennox my whole life, and I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school and attend college. I received my BA in psychology with a minor in women’s’ studies from Cal State University at Long Beach.

After graduation, I came back to Lennox and enrolled my son in kindergarten. My father, a dedicated reader of a daily Spanish-language newspaper, showed me an article stating that our native language was being removed from our neighborhood schools. I was outraged. Lennox is an immigrant community where the majority of the population speaks both English and Spanish. How could Spanish be taken away from el barrio, my community? How was it possible to take away the language of the majority population? It was like cutting our roots and erasing our identity.

I am currently a graduate student in Chicano Latino studies and public policy administration, and I have learned that there are systems in place that enable us to make changes.

WHY DID YOU RUN FOR SCHOOL BOARD?
Lennox is a family-oriented community that lives and fights for its children. I discovered that there was a newly-formed grassroots empowered parents group called Padres Unidos de Lennox that had organized around the anti-bilingual policies that were being discussed. They were looking for a candidate to run for the school board. I had no idea what the school board was! But the issue ignited my fury and passion and I agreed to run.

WERE YOU EXPOSED TO THE ARTS AS A CHILD?
I didn’t have many art opportunities presented to me but took advantage of the few that came my way.

In the third grade my teacher started an art club. That’s where I first saw a color wheel illustrating how the primary colors make the colors of the rainbow. When I learned that you can mix colors to make NEW colors, I was hooked and fascinated. My involvement in this club motivated me and kept me engaged.

I also took a high school drama class where I enjoyed being on stage and using my imagination. My favorite was improvisation in front of my peers where I could get constructive critiques about my performance!

WHY DO YOU THINK ARTS ED IS IMPORTANT FOR THE STUDENTS OF YOUR COMMUNITY?
The next generation of Lennox residents faces a new world that requires right brain skills. This means that the school district and the community need to create an art-rich environment to encourage that learning. The arts bring freedom of expression and self-awareness into the classroom, and promote critical thinking skills by tapping into the human imagination where the magic happens.

WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF LENNOX AS IT RELATES TO THE ARTS?
I come from a generation that willed itself to survive with a do-or-die attitude. Many of us had to fend for ourselves in and out of school because our parents had to work from sun-up to sun-down to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. My peers are now parents and we want the best for our children.

As a community we have suffered through many forms of violence and yet we revel in our stories of hope. We live our lives within a one-mile radius as we wait for the world to witness the beauty of who we are as people. Lennox residents are resilient and as a community we have much to offer the world.

We are preparing our children to succeed academically in order to compete in a global economy. And that picture includes arts education. In my role as School Board President, I leverage my position to bring resources and opportunities through the Lennox Arts and Culture Committee and they work closely with the schools.

Art is the circle that brings us together as we create a bridge between all of Lennox’s generations.

Photo: Gary Leonard