By Luis Graciano, Child Center Assistant, Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District

My name is Luis Graciano. I have worked as a Child Center Assistant with Child Development Services (CDS) for two years. But I have been subbing in this program since 2011. And I started volunteering with the afterschool program when I was 13 years old.

Working in education with Santa Monica Malibu Unified runs in the family. My mom works as a Teacher’s Assistant at Edison Elementary School. In the evenings she is a teacher at Edison with Child Development Services. You could say I grew up around this program. So, it was a natural move for me to come to work for the district.

I work at Franklin Elementary School. I truly love my job. I help children with their homework. I arrange afterschool activities. I sanitize tables and chairs before and after meals. I plan and supervise outside play. I work with children from preschool to third grade.

Now, both my mom and I are being laid-off. It will be hard on my family. But I think the biggest impact will be on the students.

I’ve had students who are having trouble at school. Through tutoring, we’re able to help them because we know their teachers. We know the formats they’re using. As children face learning loss because of this pandemic, additional tutoring and assistance will be critical.

Parents also want CDS to be back as soon as possible. There are parents who need to go back to work. Most of these families need child care throughout the day.

And, more than ever, children need stability. I have seen how kids thrive on a regular schedule. Students join the program in Kinder or First Grade. Some are very shy and keep to themselves. But when they see the same people every day, it helps them open-up.

I urge the board not to cut Child Development Services. Parents and children need care and support now more than ever. And by completely shutting down the program, it will be more difficult to restart it later. Let’s work together to find solutions that will help dedicated education workers like my mom and me — and the children and families we serve.

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