On Tuesday morning, state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) encouraged students at Luther Burbank Middle School to not feel "powerless."
As part of the school's morning ritual, local civic leaders are often invited to read inspiring quotes and encourage good values as part of a program called "Words of Wisdom." Teachers also incorporate a weekly lesson that ties into the message.
"Today, ask yourself this: What do I believe in? How can I improve life for myself and others. How can I make a difference when something isn't fair?" Portantino said over the school's intercom system. "Each time we choose to act with courage and believe in ourselves and others, we're hoping to shape a better world. It's something to think about."
"Words of Wisdom" was introduced at Luther Burbank Middle School in 2016 by Isaac Huang, the school's assistant principal. He said he heard about it when he worked at a school in Chino.
"We want students to become well-rounded, not just purely focused on academics," Huang said. "When they grow up, we want them ready for the real world."
Afterward, Portantino visited two classrooms where he shared how he became a state senator, encouraged students to become involved in local politics and asked them their thoughts on starting school later in the day.
In one class, the response was cheers, while in the other, the students were more subdued in their reaction.
In February, Portantino introduced Senate Bill 328, which would have required middle and high schools across California to start the school day no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The measure failed in the state assembly.
In Burbank, most middle-school and high-school students begin the school day at 8 a.m., but some students enrolled in a zero-period schedule can start as early at 7 a.m.
In the La Cañada Unified School District, education leaders in June approved pushing back the start time from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. for high school students for a year.
Before departing, Portantino offered a few more words of advice: "Don't worry how big the ripple is gonna be, just whether you're going to make the ripple."