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Why I Am Here

Staff Blog

Why I Am Here

Swetha Pottam

My family emigrated from India when I was three years old to provide better opportunities for my sister, my brother, and myself. When I was eight years old, I got into Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, a public charter school located in Southern California. It was open only to select students who made the cut. It was due to the tireless efforts of my parents that I got into this school. I would continue to attend that school until I graduated from high school, ten years later. After Sherman Oaks CES I went to San Francisco State University; I have spent my whole life in public education.

Being at the same school for nine years, I saw how budget cuts affected us. At first I was only in classes with twenty to twenty-five students, but as time went by the student-to-teacher ratio got much bigger. Soon my classes were seating thirty to forty students. I saw art classes and after school programs either get slashed or start charging money. My science teachers asked their students every year for donations to do lab experiments. This money used to come from the district, but due to lack of funding, they had to find another way. Since students from all around Los Angeles would come to my school, bus transportation was essential. There was a time when the district was thinking about withdrawing bus transportation from our school, which incited a panic in all of the students and parents who depended on the bus. I saw struggling students unable to get the help and tutoring they needed. Luckily for me, I was able to get help from my family, who could afford the additional tutoring that I needed. But not everyone is able to do that. That’s why I am with Evolve, because I believe that everyone deserves the same chance I had.  

I saw how the costs of higher education was putting a financial strain on my family. My siblings were not eligible for financial aid, which is only open to citizens and permanent residents. It wasn’t until it was my turn to go to college that we gained permanent resident status, thus opening financial aid to us. I had hoped that college would be better funded, but I know too many students who struggle to find the classes they need and go into debt because of rising tuition costs. I know students who struggle to make ends meet and how that directly impacts their education. I believe that education is a human right and that it is the key to success. I believe in fully funding our schools by making corporations pay their fair share. And that is why I am with Evolve.