Bravo High School campus in Boyle Heights. Photos by Victoria Montes.

LAUSD stands for Los Angeles Unified School District. But as hard-working students and staff at Bravo Medical Magnet HS, we feel anything but unified with its Local District East.

All Local District East High Schools have received millions of dollars in renovations while Bravo has received nothing and been denied previous requests. All projects are proposed by our local LAUSD School Board member or the district superintendent. So why has Bravo been repeatedly overlooked?

This is the question Bravo students, staff, families are having to ask themselves.

Bravo High School students at Hazard Park next to the Boyle Heights campus.

Bravo MMHS has continuously been denied funds for any facility improvements. The last major construction renovations performed at Bravo MMHS were done in 2003, while all other high schools in Local District East have received continuous funding.  This year alone, $955,000 is being allotted for Torres HS, $10 million for Garfield HS (on top of the recent $87,000,000 renovation in 2008), $26 million for Wilson HS, $190 million to Roosevelt HS, and $218 million to Lincoln HS. Why not Bravo?

The problem with this continuous oversight in funding creates a lack of equity and access for the 1600 plus students at Bravo. Bravo’s enrollment capacity is 1517 students, but our average enrollment is in the 1800s.Bravo’s curriculum, sports, art, and medial programs cannot expand with our current sized facility.

We have the second largest student population in LD East, but the smallest facility. Bravo MMHS would like to add curriculum programs such as sports medicine, dental, and community health programs to complement our patient care pathway and foster our partnership with USC Keck and LAC/USC Hospitals. We have not been able to add any new programs and turned down offers from these partners because of lack of space.

A plan was developed by LAUSD in 2011 to add an additional three-story building and sports facility but there was not enough funding. There clearly seems to be plenty of money now, but not the desire by our LAUSD School Board Member, Monica Garcia, or our former LD East Superintendent, Jose Huerta, to select Bravo for the same level of renovations of all the other East Area high schools.

According to School Construction Bond Citizens’ Oversight Committee (BOC) Review Process, project proposals for new construction must start from District Staff, Board Members, and Local Districts. Anytime we have reached out for funding, we have been told there is no money and so we wait for Monica Garcia or Mr. Huerta to propose the construction of additional facilities.  

But while we wait, we watch all the high schools around has have their renovations fully funded. While this is truly needed at all schools and especially high schools built nearly 100 years ago, we also need renovations and expansion. Garfield is on its second round of multi-million-dollar renovations.

The lack of renovations is now a safety issue. Areas that were part of the 2011 renovation plan were based on a needs assessment. This included fixing science labs to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, expanding the bus waiting area to meet bus loading safety codes, replacing the roof, and repairing parking structure cracks and puddles. The expansion plans also included an athletic building, track and field site, new performance space, and a new outside eating area.

Students are currently eating in the park without tables, chairs, or shade due to overcrowding. Our champion sports teams do not have a home field or practice field to play in. Every year, our music, dance, and theater programs have to constantly adjust and modify their performance and practice schedules around standardized testing in the auditorium. 

Bravo’s needs from 2011 have only gotten direr 11 years later.

While we wait, we watch all the high schools around has have their renovations fully funded. While this is truly needed at all schools and especially high schools built nearly 100 years ago, we also need renovations and expansion.

Because of lack of classroom space, we now have three classes at the East Los Angeles Occupational Center (ELAOC).Students are not only separated from the Bravo campus and their peers, but they face dangers associated with having to walk down to ELAOC. Encounters with the homeless, having to cross Marengo Street where speeding cars and emergency vehicles are common, inclement weather issues, a report of a stabbing, a person threatening to jump off a freeway overpass, and trash including used syringes and couches are becoming a weekly experience.

The district has emphasized closed campuses for safety reasons yet Bravo students are not only walking to ELAOC, but they also need to use Hazard Park as their PE/sport facility on a daily basis. Bravo has always used Hazard Park for PE classes and team practice. But if there is money for other schools to renovate their sports facilities, then it is time for Bravo to have the same resources.

Bravo High School students taking PE classes in the park.

Bravo MMHS is an amazing school. We have students from all over Los Angeles. Sixty percent wake up as early as 5 am to catch their 6 am busses. They ride the buses two hours each way. We have a 99% graduation rate, the highest Standardized test scores in LD East, and a 95% acceptance rate across all CSUs. We annually have students attend Ivy League Schools, UCs, CSUs, local private colleges and community colleges.

We are a diverse campus filled with people who help students find their paths. Imagine what more we could do if our School Board Member Garcia, actually proposed Bravo renovations on par with the other LD East Schools?

The author and her son, Mateo Matos, who will be attending Bravo in the Fall.

Bravo has consistently achieved the highest CAASP Scores in LD East, highest graduation rate, highest college attendance rates, won numerous awards, and yet all without additional resources or LD East or Board District 2 Support. Are we being punished for our success?

Bravo was founded upon the promises of the 1968 Chicano Blowouts and the 1970 Chicano Moratorium. From these movements, Lincoln HS parents advocated for the development of a school in the community that provided a college going culture. Bravo is that school.

My son graduated from Bravo in 2021 and his grandmother, Graciela Montes, and her brothers took part in the Blowouts and the 1970 Chicano Moratorium in Washington DC. To consistently ignore and deny Bravo students much-deserved support, is to ignore their effort.

Each time I receive an email from Ms. Garcia she always references the promises of the Chicano Walkouts. One email sharing the funding for Wilson HS said “investing in the academic wellness and aspirations of this community is critical to fulfilling the promise for educational justice from the 1968 Walkouts.”

So again, the question remains, why is Bravo not worthy of the same promise? It is time to give Bravo the attention and support that the students have long deserved.

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Victoria Montes

Victoria Montes is a 21-year educator in LAUSD and is currently the College Advisor at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet HS. She is the mother of two Bravo Alumni and lives with her family in Lincoln Heights.

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