News Report, Donny Lumpkins
On a recent tour of Contra Costa County public schools, Congressman George Miller (D- Martinez), a Richmond native, stopped by Richmond High School to speak to about 20 students who are members of the Bay Area Peacekeepers (BAP), a program that helps “at-risk” kids stay in school and away from trouble and gang violence.
During the visit, the congressman discussed an array of topics, including his early years growing up in Richmond and his personal journey into political life, a bumpy road that included him dropping out of high school and eventually attending community college, which he described as his “second chance.”
Miller, 66, told Richmond Pulse that he loves to be on school campuses and that it was important for him to be at Richmond High because the young BAP members have made a “very serious decision to improve their lives.” It’s a program he wants to support, said Miller, because he wasn’t too different from the students when he was their age.
Gonzalo Rucobo, co-founder of BAP, says the congressman’s support of the program and his interaction with the students allows them a chance to connect personally with someone who makes decisions on behalf of their community. At first tthe students looked to be a little intimidated by the congressman, and didn’t want to ask any questions. But eventually, their timidity wore off and the conversation opened up.
“They may not be able to discuss [politics] with their friends, because it’s not the norm,” said Rucobo. “But if you [create] that setting for them, then the (ideas) will just start flowing.”
Dahlia Ramiro, 15, a student at Richmond High and a member of BAP, has had a tumultuous road of her own trying to stay out of trouble and in school. Formerly a straight A student, Ramiro has had a harder time keeping her grades up lately due to trouble at home and legal problems that resulted form her running with the wrong crowd and skipping school. But these days, the other members of BAP will call her repeatedly or drive her to school when she needs a ride, among other things they do to make sure she gets back on track and stays out of trouble. Ramiro says the people she’s met through BAP have become like “uncles and aunts” to her. They believed in her, said Ramiro, at a time when she didn’t believe in herself.
Ramiro was happy that Congressman Miller came to her school, and would like to see more politicians support programs like BAP. The lesson she took away from his visit, she said, was that no matter where you grow up you can always make it. And if you feel like giving up, don’t; because there is always something better out there if you just keep trying.