Manzo: Growing Horizontally, Recognizing Limits, And Fear

2382 words - 10 pages

Manzo Elementary School in the west Tucson neighborhood of Barrio Hollywood is not only my field study location but also the school that my little host brother and sister attend, which makes my connection to the school a daily part of my life. Every morning, I eat breakfast with my host brother and sister, and on interning days I will sometimes walk home with them. Aside from witnessing the daily comings and goings, I see their homework and I hear the stories about their day at school. Moreover, my host mom is close friends with Moses Thompson, the school counselor and mastermind behind Manzo’s ecology program, which allows me to understand a parent’s opinion of the program and Moses. Living ...view middle of the document...

Being flexible, I jump out of the classroom to help Moses with special projects like fixing the water collecting cisterns, painting wood for new compost bins, and using a pitchfork to loosen and aerate particularly smelly and cold compost piles.
Working at such a unique elementary school like Manzo, I cannot help but find myself comparing my elementary school and my experiences to what I have experienced here. Being raised in a predominantly white and wealthy area of Portland, Oregon, a city already criticized for lacking racial minorities, my school was not any different. According to Moses, about 96 percent of the school identifies as Hispanic, with the addition of a few Asian, Black, and White students. To contrast, my elementary school was approximately 70 percent White and only 15 or 18 percent of students received free and reduced lunch. Moses once told me that breakfast at Manzo is free for everyone because it is rare to find someone who is not on the free food program. Personally, such racial and socioeconomic difference has made me feel uncomfortable because of what the kids are being served in the cafeteria and how often I see many kids just eat the meat on the burger or drink the chocolate milk. The fruit, occasional veggie, and bread crust are always the first to be tossed in the compost food waste and chicken feed. Burgers with just meat and a bun, a square of baked beans, some fruit, and chocolate milk is pretty standard. I feel disgusted when certain kids run back and forth to the “share table,” where many kids give up milk cartons, fruit cups, and half eaten sandwiches, chugging one chocolate milk carton after another.
I think the reason I feel this way is because during my childhood I always carried a packed lunch to school every day. I think I had maybe 10 hot lunches in my K-12th grade public school career, but then again, in my early years I had the benefit of having a stay-at-home mom to pack those lunches for me with fresh lettuce, cheese, tomato, and cucumber sandwiches with a side of Trader Joe’s brand crackers and perhaps a couple of Newman’s Own Mint cookies. For a while I thought it was so ironic that the students’ rejected unbalanced and unhealthy food was the Manzo garden’s source of life. Even the healthiest parts of the meals the fruit cups and the bread crusts were typically thrown out in the compost and chicken feed buckets. Both of those things, I knew at an early age, to eat and not waste. Should not working in a school-run ecology program and garden guide the children to at least make the healthiest choices that are available to them, like eating more than just the beef patty of a burger?
For a while, I contemplated why I felt this way and failed to connect the dots to this picture. I started to draw the lines while reading one-on-one with the kids and taking note of the varying accesses to resources. While growing up, I struggled with dyslexia, which slowed my reading, writing and comprehension skills....

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