As told to Navi Singh AmeriCorps member, Compton Ave Elementary School
Gwendolyn Baker is a 5th grade teacher at Compton Ave Elementary School in Watts. She is the longest serving faculty member at the school. This is her 6th year working with a City Year AmeriCorps member in her classroom.
"I was born and raised here in Watts, right over there by 97th Street. I went to Markham Middle School and Jordan High School, both schools that have City Year now.
I wanted to give back to my community, which is why I started working here at Compton Ave Elementary. I began working here through the '10 School Program' started by Dr. Alexander. We were creative staff and teachers that worked in low-income, low-performing schools. Our main job was to bring in positivity, which is something City Year also does.
I came to this school in 1987. Back then, the school was predominantly African American and gang infested. We worked in 'Bloods' territory and just across the street was the 'Crips' area. We came into the school and provided these students with the love they needed.
After the first year, I noticed a change in the community. Watts has always been a birthplace for beauty and creativity and it was great to see that returning. We saw progress in our school when it came to behavior and test scores. More kids were being optimistic of their futures.
Now we have programs like City Year, which continue to bring positive energy to our campus and our children. City Year at our school is great. We all work as a team and they help create the best environment for our students. Beyond that, we are a community. City Year, along with the other teachers, staff, parents and others are all a part of the Watts community.
Looking at it now, I am onto my third generation of students because I have taught most of their parents, aunts and uncles. It's a good community and it's something I will always be proud of."