A Student's Vote for Steve Zimmer

Venice High graduate interned for LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer for four years.

I worked for four years, from the ages of 13 to 18, in the offices of my School Board Member, Steve Zimmer.  From him, I learned this deep lesson: that a community is made-up of a collection of individuals, and the collection of their stories. Everyone has a unique story to share. This is mine. 

I graduated from Venice High School last June. Flash forward eight months, and I am now attending the second semester of a rigorous joint program between Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. When I left in August for the Big Apple, I thought I was leaving Los Angeles City and LAUSD behind. It became quickly clear moving to the Big Apple was not going to detach me from my community; it remains my home. Growing-up, I was the kid who wanted to solve problems, to help. I was never able to just sit back and watch, to be a by-stander.

I always felt a sense of responsibility for the state of any situation or group I was a part of. Taking President Obama’s inaugural message of community activism to heart, I approached my Councilman at age 13 to ask him how I might make a difference in my community. Impressed with my desire and determination to create community, he facilitated the educational opportunity for me to intern in his office.

At first, my duties were solely administrative, answering phones, filing papers aiding his staff. With time came a platform to do so much more. By pushing me to learn about the unique organizations, people, problems, and challenges of the 11th District. Councilman Rosendahl afforded me the tools for creating just that community in Los Angeles that I could be proud of.  

Upon entering Venice High School, I noticed an evident need for student leadership and community involvement. Believing high schools to be the backbone of strong communities, I approached School Board Member Zimmer about working in his office in order to learn more about the schools and educational obstacles in Los Angeles Unified. What’s amazing is:  Steve Zimmer said ‘yes.’ Steve Zimmer welcomed me right into his office, he embraced my idea of bringing a group of student leaders from across the district to meet with him monthly to share their ideas personal opinions on improving their schools.

Continuing to intern for Councilman Rosendahl, I worked with Board Member Zimmer and Councilman Rosendahl to help create a partnership between offices. Both offices made my projects a priority, as they aided me in expanding my school supply drives to ensure that every student in L.A. Unified could go to school with supplies, as well as creating the 11th District Youth Council of Los Angeles. 

Through four years interning for LAUSD School Board Member Zimmer, his collaborative style has taught me how crucial it is to unite people, to bring individuals and communities together. He embodies this process, which involves listening to individuals, their unique experiences, and their stories. From him, I learned that while not everyone will agree on every particular issue, you must still listen to others, educate yourself on the issue, and put what is best for your community above all else.

In contrast, it has been my experience that so many other adults wouldn’t listen to my stories and insights. Mr Zimmer is different. He had the patience to listen to me, acknowledging my stories and insights as he would his colleagues’. Furthermore, sharing my vision for a united community, he helped me accomplish many projects.

Over the last several years, I have, personally, watched him work endless hours, running all over town to listen to all of these myriad stories. Besides helping me personally to develop into a young man, he helped me achieve many of my goals. He remains my cheerleader, advisor and mentor.

Besides taking the time to listen and work with me, Mr. Zimmer listened to all the stories of my peers at Venice High. He regularly showed up to our House of Representative meetings, never leaving a single meeting early. As several of our best teachers were pink slipped last year, the students of Venice High launched a campaign to retain several of our most dedicated teachers. Venice students emailed everyone; including the press, Superintendent Deasy, our Principal, and the School Board Members.

Only Mr Zimmer responded to every email, spoke to every student, and told us, the students of Venice High, what he would and could do. No one seemed to hear our voices or acknowledge our concerns, except Mr Zimmer. He worked endlessly to bring back two teachers who the students of Venice High School felt impacted their education and lives. And, I will feel indebted to Mr. Zimmer always because of the time and concern Mr Zimmer has taken across so many years, to listen, teach, and encourage me. 

Sitting 3,000 miles away in NYC, I am frustrated to watch this race become about outside interests. I am sick and tired of reading articles about unions and billionaires. We need to elect the person who is best suited for the job. In my opinion, Board Member Steve Zimmer is that person.

He always puts the student first, is an experienced teacher, and a coalition builder. In a time when everyone wants a voice and has a personal story, we need a Board Member that will listen and vote independently. I want to hear about how the candidates have changed the lives of students; I want to hear stories!    

This article was submitted by Daniel Sobajian, Venice High Class of ’12 and current Columbia University freshman.

Community Member February 27, 2013 at 05:22 PM
Daniel, Well said! It is great to hear from a student and nice to see that you care about your community. I agree with you , that a well qualified person who knows the LAUSD and the communities it serves is what is needed. Unfortunately, our educational system needs help, but it is not Mr Zimmer's fault that the state of California has forgotten it students. Mr Zimmer cares tremendously about the students and takes his vote seriously because he realizes his vote is the one vote that actually counts and isn't predetermined by a "coalition". Isn't that what LAUSD really needs? Like you said, we all have our own story and the school board needs to hear those stories- now more than ever.- thanks Daniel for pointing that out!
Karen Wolfe March 02, 2013 at 02:17 AM
A very public process concluded with the vast majority of the MI community wanting to move the program. Spreading all the lies that you guys are about my children's wonderful school and getting into bed with the Charter Schools Assn to pay for newspaper ads discrediting Steve Zimmer do not change that reality.
Karen Wolfe March 02, 2013 at 03:32 AM
What a wonderful story. I didn't know you worked for Bill Rosendahl too. Two dedicated public servants and role models.
Erika Kirsten Beck March 02, 2013 at 05:15 AM
Steve Zimmer’s decision to move the Mandarin Immersion program out of Venice and locate it on the Marina Del Rey Middle School (MDR) campus was made without adequate assessment or planning, and an insufficient consideration of other options that could prove far better for the school, the local Venice community and the district. The incoming kinder parents were never included in the discussions to relocate to a middle school campus and have strong opinions about their child co-locating with 8th-graders. Steve Zimmer never vetted the MDR space prior to suggesting it as a suitable and sustainable location. A recent tour of the MDR facility by LAUSD Planning and Demographics, and the Local Area Superintendent confirmed that the facilities available at MDR are inadequate and inappropriate for elementary school children and cannot support the future growth of the BMI program, potentially even with massive financial investment. There is insufficient and unsuitable classroom space, administration offices, restrooms, age appropriate library facilities, safe play areas and safe staff parking. Therefore the proposed move is unacceptable. As a taxpayer, I find it fiscally irresponsible of Mr. Zimmer to recommend spending over $2.1 million dollars to bring the proposed MDRS site up-to-code. This is a conservative number that will at most, create a campus that meets the bare minimum for what LAUSD deems “code” but was never intended to be a cohesive elementary school space.
LA Momma March 03, 2013 at 06:20 AM
The bottom line is that Steve Zimmer is good for our children. Thank you Daniel for your testimony!


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