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Episode 7: Communities In Schools Los Angeles with Elmer Roldan

Elmer Roldan is Executive Director of Communities in Schools Los Angeles (CISLA). Roldan is responsible for overseeing implementation of CISLA’s strategic direction and annual goals, collaborating with CIS national and CISLA board to ensure CISLA’s success, raising the annual operating budget, managing organization-wide budget, finances, and external relationships and partnerships. 

Mr. Roldan most recently served as Director of Civic Engagement in the Office of the Superintendent at LAUSD, where he developed and managed strategic partnerships for the Superintendent, oversaw policy implementation, and communicated district priorities with LAUSD’s diverse constituents, including elected, civic, business, and community leaders. He brings experience from United Way of Greater Los Angeles, where he served as an Education Program Officer before being promoted to Director of Education, Programs, and Policy. In these roles, he led strategies to increase high school graduation rates in LA County. His experience also includes Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition, where he worked to improve outcomes for boys and young men-of-color by advocating for positive alternatives to punitive school discipline and reducing criminalization in communities of color. Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, where he served as Senior Advisor to the CEO) and Community Coalition, where he dedicated 12 years to the South LA community as a Youth Organizer, Fundraising Manager and Director of Education Programs. 

The following transcript has been redacted and edited for quality and educational purposes. 

Nati Rodriguez [00:10] 
Welcome, everyone. My name is Nati Rodriguez, and you are joining the Annenberg Learner Podcast. With me today is Elmer Roldan, Executive Director at Communities in Schools for Los Angeles. Elmer is responsible for overseeing the implementation of CIS LA’s strategic direction and annual goals, collaborating with CIS National and CIS LA board to ensure CIS LA’s success, raising the annual operating budget, managing organization-wide budget and finances, and external relationships, and partnerships. Mr. Roldan most recently served as Director of Civic Engagement in the Office of the Superintendent at LAUSD, where he developed and managed strategic partnerships for the Superintendent, oversaw policy implementation, and communicated district priorities with LAUSD’s diverse constituents, including elected civic, business and community leaders. He brings experience from United Way of Greater Los Angeles, where he served as an education program officer before being promoted to Director of Education Programs and Policy. In these roles, he led strategies to increase high school graduation rates in L.A. County. His experience also includes Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition, where he worked to improved outcomes for boys and young men of color by advocating for positive alternatives to punitive school discipline and reducing criminalization in communities of color. Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, where he served as Senior Advisor to the CEO and Community Coalition, where he dedicated 12 years to the South L.A. community as a youth organizer, fundraising manager, and Director of Education Programs.   

That is a long bio. Mr. Roldan. Thank you so much for joining. It’s an honor to have you on this podcast.  

Elmer Roldan [02:28] 
The honor is all mine and please call me Elmer.  

Nati Rodriguez [02:31] 
Elmer is also the father of two and is a product of LAUSD. We will definitely touch upon that. I’d love to hear more about your story. To start, there’s been some news across the nation around the recent gift of $133 million donation from MacKenzie Scott. Can you talk about the impact that this will have at the national level and in LA specifically? 

Elmer Roldan [03:00] 
Once again, thank you for having me Nati, it’s a real pleasure and to start with this story, obviously, this came as a huge blessing. This is like that golden ticket that every single organization and institution across the nation wants to receive. We’re just as shocked and surprised as everybody else to get this gift, but also very proud, because it’s a stamp of validation about the hard work that our team is leading. [I] just wanted to clarify that collectively 41 organizations in the CIS network received $133 million. That is 40 affiliates of which Communities in Schools of Los Angeles is one, plus the CIS National office. So that makes 41. I wish we had received all $133 million, but we are very proud to have received $2.25 as our portion of that gift.  

Nati Rodriguez [03:58] 
Has the organization either at the LA level or the national level, talked about where [or] how the funds will be deployed? 

Elmer Roldan [04:04] 
Well, I can talk about the Los Angeles plan to spend this money. It’s going to have a huge impact in accelerating our strategic plan, but also deepen our current partnerships while expanding to serve more students and more schools and what we call historically proud communities. Really our aim is to spend the money in four parts:  

  • One is we’re going to save some for a rainy day because we know that times are unstable and the organization likes to plan. We’re going to put some money in the reserves.  
  • The second portion of the money is going towards staff retention. The country has been undergoing a huge migration of staff who are choosing different careers, choosing to step away from their current work and take a break or explore jobs in a completely different field. For us, we want to make sure that we demonstrate to our staff how much we appreciate and value them, but also recognize that the cost of living is going up so much. We’ve given our staff an immediate bump in pay, and then we’re also going to increase benefits as well as other perks to demonstrate how much we value them and put our money where our mouth is. 
  • The third part is very exciting, and that is that we’re going to invest in the growth of our organization’s impact. We want to serve more students by increasing the number of staff at each of the schools that we are at and grow to serve more schools as well. We want to partner with more schools in LA Unified and then also invest in innovation because we know families need help outside of the school day. Our plan in the next two to four years is to expand, to serve students after school and during summer months.  
  • Last but not least, this is probably my favorite part of all of this, and that is that we will launch a campaign to secure our own office space. Up to now, we have been receiving the generous donation of Creative Artists Agency, who until May of 2021 gave us free office space in Century City.  

We want to have our own building where we are able to secure permanency in the community, but also become more accessible to the families that we serve. So, it’s a pretty bold plan. It’s one that all of us are really excited and really energized to see come to fruition in this next chapter of the organization.  

Nat Rodriguez [06:46] 
That’s great. I’d love to hear that taking care of the staff is a really high priority because that trickles down to all the people that are being served by the staff and really to preserve the talent that is already at the organization. I’d love to just take a step back and talk about CIS LA’s mission. The CIS LA mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. Can you share about how the organization does this? What are some of the programs and initiatives that are part of CIS LA? 

Elmer Roldan [07:19] 
At its core, the organization focuses on helping students stay connected to the schools. The students that we serve often face behavior issues, they face attendance issues, and they face academic issues. Those are indicators – the red flags that go up that tell the school staff that the student is in need of a caring adult who is going to support them on their journey through school. What our organization does is to implement what is known as integrated student supports, other people know them as wraparound services. Really, it’s a proven model that assesses where the student is. We partner with the school leadership, with teachers, with the family of the student, whether it’s their parents or their caretakers, and the students themselves, because we want to make sure that kids have agency in what they need in order for them to feel empowered. We come up with a plan to help that student get the support that they need. And it’s really in three stages:  

  • One is we provide individualized case management 
  • The other one is we do targeted group programs that are identity-based, so gender-based or race-based. This is a way for them to build community with their peers. 
  • Last but not least, we do school-wide services.  

Now that restrictions are easing up. We’re able to go back to doing whole-school activities. We’re excited about eventually doing field trips again, as we did in the past. This is a way for us to help the school achieve their annual goals, whether they be attendance, goals, academic goals, or school culture goals. Our job is to integrate ourselves in all the different layers of the school community and to help the students attend the school that they feel truly welcomes them and validates their feelings, but also values them as members of the school community.  

Nati Rodriguez [10:02] 
How are students identified or families identified to be part of a CIS LA?  

Elmer Roldan [10:08] 
First and foremost, they’re identified through the schools themselves. Right now, we have 14 schools across LA Unified and 5 different communities. Our ratio is 50 students to each of our staff that’s placed inside of the school. They work from 8-3pm every Monday through Friday, and we actually have a classroom where we’re able to operate our programming out of. The way it works is we work with the school administration and teachers who they themselves recommend the students. They refer them to our program. We go through an intensive process of bringing them on board.  

Nati Rodriguez [10:50] 
What is the relationship with the parents or the families of the students?  

Elmer Roldan [10:56] 
Well, it’s pretty intense because we can’t be successful unless the parents are deeply involved in what’s happening with their students. Sometimes the parents are our strongest partners because they’re able to give us a side of the story that we don’t see when we interact with the students, but also, parents feel validated when they work with us because often, we act as the advocate for that parent who may not always get the best communication or most reliable information through the schools that we partner with or the school district. So, during the pandemic, this actually became a stronger partnership. We learned from the families that they often depended on us to be the conduit of information and vice versa. The district also depended on us to tell them what was happening with students and families, because that line of communication was broken, especially in the first few months of the pandemic.  

Nati Rodriguez [11:56] 
I’m actually glad you mentioned that. I’m curious, what has changed about your work because of the pandemic? What do you think we’ll actually stay in the way that you run the organization?  

Elmer Roldan [12:08] 
I remember distinctly that on March 15th, 2020 schools shut down and on March 12th, our team came together to come up with an action plan to support families through school closures. Remember when schools closed, they told people that it was going to be two weeks and then everybody was going to go back to normal. But we planned for the long haul. We actually knew that, or expected that the pandemic was going to last much longer. What we did is we transitioned our program to go virtual. We got on the phones, and then once everybody became familiar with zoom, we got on zoom and started communicating with our students and our families; first and foremost, to find out what was going on with them, how they were responding to the new world that we were all being exposed to.  

What we learned from families was that essentials were needed – things like food, household items, cleaning supplies, and then eventually technology hotspots, and then money for rent and bills, all became really important to families. We doubled down on doing direct service. The nonprofit sector is the safety net for many families in Los Angeles, many students. Like a lot of other partner agencies, we became [the distributor of] funding to families. In total, we gave away $500,000 in food, essential supplies, and money to help families pay for rent and utilities. We distributed nearly 1,000 care packages. On a weekly basis, we were doing a distribution of food and other items to families. We were dropping it off at their door. Total about 700 families received emergency funds from us in checks ranging from $250 – $1,000 to help families cover the cost of bills and rent. If we weren’t able to cover all of their expenses, then we were connecting them with other resources that became available to them at the time. Obviously, times have changed, especially as jobs have returned and schools have reopened, but some of that is still needed. I think, folks forget that as everybody is rushing to go back to normal, normal isn’t there yet for our families, especially the ones who are a year or two behind on rent and who suffered tremendous losses because of families becoming ill, their housing being unstable, or in the worst cases, suffering death.  

Nati Rodriguez [15:08] 
It’s incredible the work that you were able to do. Also, I just admire the ability to pivot and address the needs that were happening at the moment and being nimble enough to do that. What aspects of that will continue to be with the organization and how does that work as you scale?  

Elmer Roldan [15:17] 
I think what we learned first and foremost is that families want to be pulled in, and they want to be directly involved in what happens in their own lives, and in their children’s education. We pulled families in closer, when a lot of agencies and government entities left them feeling isolated. That is one thing that isn’t going to change. We’re actually making sure that communication remains strong and we are in this next chapter, evolving our advocacy work, because what we learned is that direct service is important, but that direct service is only one side of the picture. In order for us to have transformative relationships with families, we have to be engaged in advocating for more resources and a seat at the table for families and students to be able to contribute to how they want to be served by the school system. While we went back into the schools and into the classroom, we’re being very mindful about how we are monitoring the way that students are returning to school and what state of emotional or mental health they are doing. And also, not forgetting that the pandemic is still alive and well for students, as, people are rushing to get back to “normal”, normal doesn’t look the same for the families that we serve.  

Nati Rodriguez [16:53] 
To your point about supporting their mental health and helping with this transition, what support are students getting in that area? That’s a big concern for students as they are trying to catch up on learning, but fundamentally if they’re not really mentally there, it’s challenging to learn new things. I’m wondering how does CIS LA address this in this transition period?  

Elmer Roldan [17:16] 
We are spending more time in being intentional about listening to students and observing students as they transition back to school. This school year has been really chaotic and for many it’s been them learning to readapt to being back in school. What we learned is that behavior and tension ran high in schools. At the high school level, you had students coming back the first week and responding to social media pressures to participate in some type of challenge. You had school destruction happening where kids were ripping out the soap dispenser or throwing away all the paper towels, and then fights also jumped up a lot, where you saw that student aggression was really being observed on campuses and really what it was is kids were bottled up for two years and now as they were going out in the world and rightfully so, a lot of that energy was coming out. In some cases, you saw that there were a lot of acts of PDA, public display of affection. In some cases, it became even more inappropriate behavior. You have to engage students around what is appropriate when you are out in the real world. Remembering that things may be funny when you see them in a video, but there are real consequences to those actions that you are carrying out. You also had other situations that were kind of cute, but also very serious. That is, you had 2nd graders who were returning to school. They left in the middle of kindergarten. When schools shut down, they missed all of 1st grade. When they came back as 2nd graders; their mindset was still that of a kindergartner. They didn’t know where things were. Our staff were having to redirect them and help them catch up to be in the state of mind and the emotional state of a 2nd grader.  

We saw similar situations happening with 8th graders who had left school in 6th grade and 10th graders who were in similar boats. You see there’s a delay in the emotional development of students. For our staff, it has taken them, doubling down on taking the time to listen, and really practicing patience. The last thing that I’ll say about this is that with our staff, we have been very mindful about secondary trauma. As our staff is supporting students, as they return back to school, the level of tension, the level of trauma, and the level of suffering that our communities have experienced over the last year, is really pouring out. For our team, we want to make sure that they are able to process a lot of that pain that they hear and see every single day to make sure that they remain well and healthy so that they’re able to support the students on their journey to returning to a better, more stable place.  

Nati Rodriguez [20:43] 
That just reminds me of the experience for teachers and anybody working with students directly. I can’t imagine what it has been like for the last two years, and it’s great that your organization was supporting staff in that way. I heard you mentioned kind of a range of ages between like 2nd grade and high school what is the range of age that the organization serves and how long is a family with the organization?  

Elmer Roldan [21:06] 
We serve families in elementary, middle, and high schools. Our goal is to have full feeder patterns in the five communities that we serve. We have fourteen schools in Watts, South L.A., Boyle Heights, Pico Union, and the West Side. Watts is the only community that we have a full feeder pattern, where we have three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. The goal is to have a relationship with the family and the students for as long as we can because what we’ve seen is that if we are able to support the student in their journey, the longer that our relationship lasts with them, the better outcomes we experience. Our goal is to spend as much time with the students. At our elementary schools we’re starting to serve students as young as 2nd grade and obviously, in middle school and high school, we serve all the grades in those schools.  

Nati Rodriguez [22:06] 
How are the schools identified? I know you mentioned a couple of the areas that you’re focused on, but if a new school were to be introduced as you’re scaling, how is that determined?  

Elmer Roldan [22:18] 
The schools invite us to become their partners. We have been responding to those requests. Our goal is to fill up the full feeder pattern, as I mentioned to you, and to complete them, because our goal is to make sure that we create bubbles around the communities that we are serving. We are trying to be proactive about connecting with the schools and the communities that we are serving. I would love for us to be able to respond to every single school that comes to us and asks us to partner with them. We certainly have been hearing more from schools that want CIS LA in their schools. One thing that we have to balance is that we do have a lot of our team members being new to the organization. Our growth can only go so far because our folks are still learning how to implement the model. The promise that we make to the schools is, if and when we go into their campuses, we want to bring the best program possible to them.  

The short answer is the schools reach out to us. We start the conversations and share with them what the costs are, as well as what our expectations are, and hear from them what it is that they’re looking [for] and if it’s a good fit, that launches the partnership between us. We’re proud to say that we are now in talks with Belmont High School in the Pico Union-Westlake area, as well as Stevenson Middle School in Boyle Heights. We will be starting partnerships with them in the upcoming school year.  

Nati Rodriguez [23:52] 
How you described the model, I feel like every school should have this type of program for their students. I can imagine trying to balance scaling with making sure that you’re bringing your best foot forward in every single partnership. That must be a challenge. Just taking a step back to your own trajectory and how you got here, can you talk about what led you to CIS LA, what is your own story and how did you get into this work?  

Elmer Roldan [24:20] 
I can say that I am a product of organizations like Communities in Schools of Los Angeles. I was recruited to an organization when I was 13 years old, Community Coalition in South Los Angeles. They organize Black and Brown residents around quality-of-life issues. From the get-go, the organization decided to invest in young Black and Brown leaders and to really work with everyday youth and teach them that they can be a conduit for positive change in South Los Angeles. I am an immigrant to this country. My family brought me here when I was nine years old in 1989, I joined the organization in 1993. As you can imagine, I had a lot of growth and a lot of learning, but I feel really fortunate that I found caring adults, who not only invested in me by dedicating lots of time and energy to keep me in a place that was safe, and also invested in my own leadership to shape the way that I view the world and view the power that young people have in driving positive social change, not only in our communities, but really throughout the world.  

When I was at the Superintendent’s office before coming to Communities in Schools of Los Angeles, I started the conversation with them. One of the things that I engaged the board in before I joined was the need for us to do more advocacy. While I believe in the power of direct service, and I believe that families desperately need that direct support, if we truly want to impact more change, we need to include advocacy as part of the work that we do, because you can only help so many people. If you want to move from having a transactional relationship with families, you have to engage them in not only having their own voice, having their own agency, but having a real seat at the table where they get to determine what resources come to their children and how those resources are spent to better the outcomes for those youth.  

Nati Rodriguez [26:46] 
Thank you for sharing about your background. You mentioned before that you are actually a product of LAUSD and that both of your children went to LAUSD schools. Can you talk about that experience? Having been a student and a parent, and then in your work there and at the Superintendent’s office?  

Elmer Roldan [27:04] 
I am a product of LA Unified, I say that proudly. I share with people that I experienced the best that LAUSD has to offer, but also the worst. Being a Latino immigrant kid who went to LAUSD schools in the 90’s, my experience varied vastly depending on the adult that I was interacting with. Like many other boys of color in the 90’s, we experienced really punitive zero-tolerance policies that often-criminalized young students. I would add that it also criminalized young women and young LGBTQ youth, particularly when it comes to dress code. Young women were targeted more than young men for the type of shirt that they were wearing, or so much emphasis was put on how tight their clothes were or the length of their skirt. More emphasis was placed on the way the student looked as opposed to what the student was learning once they were on the campus.  

My mom has a 3rd grade education, herself. Although she always emphasized the power of education and wanted us to go to college, there’s only so much that she was able to do, not only because of time limitations, but also because of comprehension, not only with language, but also the material that I was learning. Her engagement was vastly different from the type of engagement that I was able to have once my son attended. My son and I are both products of the magnet program at LA Unified. I, for various reasons, had to navigate the system myself because that’s what children of immigrants do – we learn how to interact with agencies and especially schools. Whereas my son had two educated parents who went to parent-teacher conferences and were able to pull him closer whenever we saw him drifting and we’re able to go and advocate for him when we saw that the schools or a teacher or, something was going on that didn’t sit right with us.  

We were able to pull him out of schools whenever we saw the quality of education he was getting wasn’t as good, but knew enough to know when he was getting a high-quality education versus not. That made a vast difference. And that hasn’t changed. I would say till this day, where the district is vast and there are many great options for families, but there are also schools where children just aren’t being challenged and aren’t being given the right instruction. They’re not being given the right resources. And, unless families know that is going on, then a lot of families trust the system to do what’s right for children. We know from our experience in advocacy, that you have to push the system to do better by all families, because the system doesn’t just do that on its own. There are a lot of forces within the school district that want to keep things status quo and want to tell you that everybody gets the same quality of education. We know that for various reasons, whether it’s funding issues, staffing issues, resource issues, every child doesn’t get the same type of education. We have to fight harder to make sure that children are able to access the best of LAUSD and not have to suffer the consequences of some of those challenges that I presented.  

Nati Rodriguez [31:09] 
If you could pick one thing that would have a significant impact on the district and the students being served that you work with, what would that be? If you could wave a magic wand and have something change in students’ lives or the school system, what would that look like?  

Elmer Roldan [31:24] 
Investment in schools is the number one thing that could drastically change the outcomes for students. In the 70s, California made a conscious choice to de-fund education. When we passed Proposition 13, we decided that we no longer wanted to invest in public education. The reason was no different than what we’re experiencing today – desegregation was forcing school systems to open its doors to more Black children and more Latino children. When that happened, we created suburbs and we experienced what is known as white flight and what those families did was, they decided that they wanted to freeze property taxes because they didn’t want to pay for the education of those Black and Brown children that were entering public schools. 40-50 years later, we are facing the backlash of us defunding education. A lot of the fights that you see between teachers’ unions and families and charters, at the end of the day it really does come down to the amount of resources that we have to properly educate and support children. We have forced the schools to do more with less, and as the need has increased, because poverty has increased, you see that schools have had to become more things to more families, whether it’s providing nutrition, providing shelter, providing childcare, providing medical care. I mean, the list goes on and on. We are asking schools to do more with less money. That is what to me would drastically change the narrative or  the fights that are going on. We see a lot of opportunities today because, this year alone, the system received an additional, I believe it was $6 billion for recovery efforts. We’re in a stage right now where for the next 2-3 years, we have more resources than we’ve had in decades. There is an opportunity today for us to pause and truly determine what types of investments we want to make in children, but it shouldn’t take a pandemic in order for us to invest in public education.  

Nati Rodriguez [33:53] 
Yes. And the money will run out. The amount of money  could be transformative, but again, it’s going to run out. I don’t know that we’ve really put education at the forefront the way it should be for our country to continue to be innovating and producing great thinkers, creative people, to have jobs that help them to thrive. Thank you for sharing about that. I’m just going to switch gears if that’s okay. I saw that you participated in Annenberg Alchemy and for our listeners who are not familiar with this, it’s a free capacity building and leadership development program designed to assist small to mid-sized nonprofit organizations and their leaders in the greater LA region and this is through the Annenberg Foundation. Can you share about any capacity gains that Communities in Schools LA have made since your participation?  

Elmer Roldan [34:44] 
What I will say is shout out to Kristina, our program manager at Annenberg, because I am a first-time E.D. I became Executive Director of Communities in Schools of Los Angeles in 2019. It’s the first time that I step into a leadership role and, it’s no surprise or no secret that our organization was going through a transformation. We were going through a set of challenges, including funding challenges, as well as we were in need of investing more in our infrastructure and internal leadership. I found refuge in meeting with Kristina and she recommended that I participate in the Alchemy program. I got to say it is one of the best things that has happened to me in my tenure, and I really appreciated it because, one, it teaches you the technical sides of leading an organization. It also made sure that our board chair was a part of the conversation because boards are just as important to an organization’s health and well-being and development as the leadership in the organization. Participating with the board chair really helped us to analyze the health of our organization and also consider what changes needed to happen in order for us to adapt to the changes that we wanted to see happen in order for us to grow and move in the direction that we knew was possible. Participating in Alchemy challenged us to be self-reflective, but also gave us tangible tools for what we as an organization needed to do to improve the way that we evaluate our work, the way that our board is functioning. It also helped us develop relationships with other local nonprofit leaders, as well as with the Annenberg Foundation, which we really appreciate all of their investment in Communities in Schools of Los Angeles.  

Nati Rodriguez [37:30] 
You mentioned that it’s your first time in an E.D. role, I’m sure it’s probably one of the most challenging times to have taken on this role. I think you mentioned it was right before the pandemic 2019. Does that sound right?  

Elmer Roldan [37:40] 
That’s right. November 18th, 2019 is when I became the E.D.  

Nati Rodriguez [37:48] 
Yes, in a major city in the U.S. that was impacted by the pandemic. It’s been incredible to see the work that Communities in Schools of LA has done already in such a short period of time under your leadership. Is there anything else that you would like to share about Communities in Schools or your own personal journey and also what’s next for the organization with our Learner audience?  

Elmer Roldan [38:10] 
Thank you. I really appreciate the space and I appreciate you Nati, and you, Miriam for creating this space for individuals like myself to come and tell our story. The work of our organization is very important, and we want to welcome as many people into our universe to learn about Communities in Schools of Los Angeles, to learn about our impact, but also to invest in our organization, because we know that the need is great. We know that, especially with the pandemic, there is a calling for us to do more for students. We know that the catchphrase right now is we can’t rush to get back to normal because normal was never okay for Black and Latino and Indigenous students. It was never okay for LGBTQ youth. It was never okay for English learners or foster youth or homeless youth. I mean, the need is so great right now in Los Angeles. We’ve seen disparities only get deeper.   

The pandemic has been inclement for low-income and middle-income families while we’ve seen the wealth of the 1% increase to astronomical rates. As we see the need deepen, the only way that we are going to ensure the students make it to the end zone is by us partnering and making sure that we invest in the wellness of children. One of the advantages of what’s happened during the pandemic, is it’s caused everyone to pause, to recognize that mental health and social-emotional wellness are just as important to educating children as teaching. Often times when people think about schools, they think about attendance, they think about behavior, and they think about grades, which makes perfect sense. But we seldom think about the wellness of students when they set foot in schools. We often treat children like robots, and we expect them to set their emotions, their feelings, their mental health aside, as they step into classrooms and into schools. We just can’t keep operating like that.   

The truth is children require that adults be not only more patient, but also more understanding of their individual needs. I think that the pandemic has shined a light and we need to make that even bigger light. The brighter the light that we can shine on social emotional wellness, the more that we will ensure that students are doing well. We are experiencing another leadership change at the district. We have a new superintendent who comes in with his own vision, his own plans for improving education. This will be the 8th superintendent that I’ve seen take the helm of the district in the time that I’ve been involved. By comparison, a district like Long Beach has only had two superintendents in the last 20 years or so. Leadership change means a whole lot in a place like Los Angeles. It’s no surprise that education is so politicized. We need more people to be involved and pay attention to education and understand the ins and outs of what moves schools in Los Angeles and to pay attention and be involved. Not only at the local level and their children’s school, but at the school district level as well, because that’s where the big decisions are made that impact what’s happening on the ground.  

Nati Rodriguez [41:47] 
Great. Thank you. If someone wants to get involved with Communities in Schools and support, where should they go?  

Elmer Roldan [41:52] 
They can visit our website They can get a hold of us there. They can also email me [email protected]. We welcome anyone and all who want to join our movement to ensure that students are well and becoming well-rounded adults, because we need all the help that we can get to improve this world.  

Nati Rodriguez [42:16] 
Thank you, Elmer. I really appreciate you taking the time to meet with us today and thank you for sharing about the organization and your work and your own leadership. We look forward to tracking your progress and continuing to follow CIS LA.  

Elmer Roldan [42:31] 
The pleasure is all mine. Thank you.