By Estrellita Gonzalez
The year 2017 will be remembered as a turning point in British Columbia’s public education system, with a new opportunity for reinvestment in public education across our province and our city, to help our kids learn and succeed and build the economy of the future.
I am a local small business owner, author, and, most importanty, a mother. My teenage son attends Eric Hamber secondary. We have been participating in Vancouver’s school system for almost a decade.
Prior to my son attending his local neighbourhood public school in Grade 3, we had been on a wait list for most of the summer before finding out he got in. Soon after, I started attending parent advisory council (PAC) meetings and seeing first hand the challenges and underfunding our school system was facing.
While at this school, my son began to show interest in things like dance, public speaking, and art. We had heard of a Vancouver public school that focused on fine arts, Nootka elementary, located at Renfrew and East 17th Avenue. It would require me driving him there and back every day, as there is no school bus service. I thought it odd that in a city like Vancouver we had only one such school. In any event, it was important for my son to develop his talent, so we applied when he was in Grade 3 and were placed on another wait list. By the beginning of Grade 5 my son had a spot at Nootka.
In his three years at Nootka, he was exposed to a variety of arts and music classes and found that his favourite was drama. I was proud to support him developing this talent and the right brain skills of creativity, innovation, and intuitiveness. And it turned out he was a pretty good actor—by the time he was 10 he had an agent and started a professional acting career!
Both schools offered an after-school program, which was very fortunate. As a single parent I needed the after-school support but I heard of the stories of many others who could not find local before- and after-school care. This is such a stressor for parents, especially in an expensive city like Vancouver where many parents have to work multiple jobs or lots of overtime in order to pay the bills.
For high school my son applied to Eric Hamber’s studio program, a mini school for kids who have a passion for something. It was a very competitive process and involved several steps, including an extensive application essay, interview, and testing. He was fortunate to be selected in round one and started Eric Hamber in September 2016. Here I got involved with the parent’s studio group as its co-treasurer. We set goals to raise money for added resources the program would need for things as field trips and planning days.
My son has benefited greatly from his time at Nootka and Eric Hamber. As an engaged parent, I have seen how the system works and where it doesn’t. I feel compelled to help advocate for the changes we need at a systemwide level from stewarding my son's education to stewarding the education of Vancouver students across our district. Through seeing the impact of arts education on the development of my son’s talents, I know how important it is to restore funding for arts education, so children across our city have the opportunities to be all they can be as they chart their course through life.
I will work hard for the students of Vancouver’s public education system and work to help build a healthy culture within our school board if elected. My background in human resources, including in conflict resolution, will be an asset in helping make space for all the best ideas from the range of trustees elected so they can come forward and work together for the benefit of our district and its students.