Hitting the Streets for Students' Sakes

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Erick Rosales was among those who didn't mind giving up his Saturday to walk through North Hollywood neighborhoods and urge students to stay in school.

"I want to find out why these guys are not going to school," said Rosales, whose church provided volunteers for the walk. "I think communication is a big factor. . . . Sometimes you need more than your parents. You need your school to participate with you. So the cycle doesn't keep happening."

Rosales, 22, was among the more than 300 students, parents, teachers and community leaders who went door to door Saturday to reach out to North Hollywood High School parents and students.

"Many of the parents were shocked to see us," said Maria Casillas, president of the Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project, a private foundation and co-sponsor of the walk. "One of them almost cried. She said: 'This has never happened. No one has ever reached out to me and I am only a poor single mother.' "

North Hollywood High sits between neighborhoods of haves and have-nots. To the south are Studio City, the Ventura Boulevard corridor and more upscale areas of North Hollywood, such as Valley Village. North of the campus, neighborhoods look markedly different, with low-rent apartment buildings and small, modest homes.

Working in teams of three or four, the walkers pinpointed homes in lower-income areas in which students have demonstrated poor attendance and class failures, and parents have shown little or no participation in the school, North Hollywood High Principal John Hyland said.

"I don't believe any of these parents will come into the school unless we shake hands with them, look them in the eyes and welcome them," Hyland said.

Hyland said that while the school is renowned for its highly gifted magnet program, as many as 3,000 of the school's more than 4,000 students are performing poorly.

School leaders are trying to reverse that. Working through a 1997 Annenberg Foundation grant and the Los Angeles Unified School District, the school is part of the North Hollywood School Family, one of 28 Annenberg education-reform projects.

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