FROM: Robert Hijar, 22, also known as rapper M.C. Boulevard, is a former gang member.
Hijar spent his 16th and 17th years in California Youth Authority facilities, where he completed high school. Now he is a college student with hopes of becoming a youth counselor and a professional rapper and singer. He has performed his "positive rap" for gang members of all ethnic backgrounds at the "Come Togethers" sponsored by the Los Angeles County Probation Department.
He believes a major problem in improving racial and ethnic relations is negative stereotyping, fostered by the media. He advocates establishing regular interchanges among elementary schools from diverse areas of Los Angeles County to encourage friendships among children of different races and ethnicities.
The program would resemble a regular system of field trips; for example, a class of predominantly Latino second-graders would visit with a class of predominantly black, Asian or white students. Joint activities could be planned and pen pals could be paired.
School bureaucracies could be the biggest obstacle, especially if schools from different districts are involved. Parents might also be wary of allowing their children to travel to neighborhoods they are not familiar with. As with any school activity, this could be overcome by briefing parents first and requiring parental permission before a child could participate.
If school districts like the idea, it could be put in place almost immediately. But parental opposition is not the only potential problem. Cost may also be a factor. Cash-strapped districts have little money to expand non-academic programs. They would have to be committed to promoting this project over others.