Vanessa Luna, Shealyn Massey work together to “dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline”


Vanessa Luna ‘19 and Shealyn Massey ‘19. Credit: Jason Messner / The Foothill Dragon Press

Hana Vrablik, Writer

Activists and partners-in-crime (or, rather, partners-against-crime), Shealyn Massey ‘19 and Vanessa Luna ‘19 are making the most out of their senior year. Aside from AP classes, college applications and D-Tech, Massey and Luna are working together to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. They volunteer with Foothill’s WE Club to mentor students at Middle School Opportunity (MSO), which neighbors Foothill’s campus.

MSO is a school for middle schoolers who have been expelled or are about to be expelled from schools in the Ventura Unified School District. “We’re trying to be mentors to support them,” Massey said. “We try to move them along with their goals so that when they go back to their middle schools, they’ll be successful—which is the final goal of all this.”

As well as helping the middle schoolers establish goals, Massey and Luna teach them lessons on a wide range of topics, from bullying and self-respect to Gandhi and the Charlottesville riots.

“It’s a really gratifying experience,” Luna said. “I couldn’t imagine my senior year without going up [to MSO] every day.”



However, “there are issues to be addressed within our community with the large number of minority students that are going there,” Massey said. “It’s very rare that there’s going to be more white people than Latino people in that school. Like right now the ratio is 7:1. I think that’s definitely highlighting an issue that Ventura and the rest of the nation has. And then that also brings in the school-to-prison pipeline.”

The school-to-prison pipeline describes the trend in which young studentsespecially students with disabilities and students of colorare criminalized, pushed out of schools and put onto a track towards poverty and crime. To strive towards dismantling this system, WE Club works with MSO by giving support to middle school students and helping them get back onto the right path at a younger age.



“I know that there are students up there [at MSO] that really don’t need to be there, because they don’t have behavioral issues and they don’t have issues that would prohibit them from succeeding in school,” Massey explained, “but they were just expelled for one minuscule event that could’ve been handled better by the administration.”



Though the reality of the school-to-prison pipeline is grim, Massey and Luna both have high hopes for the future. WE Club plans on attending school board meetings to voice their concerns on the school system’s expulsion rates. They also hope to create some kind of partnership between Foothill and MSO that will help MSO students get admitted as Foothill students once they graduate middle school.

“Foothill is a really unique community and it’s very small. We have the FIRE programs, and the teachers are very adamant that you will succeed and we have college preparation,” Massey said. “I think that would be very helpful to their success in the future.”

With their hard work and passion for their community, Massey and Luna help pave a way to a brighter future. If you’re interested in being a part of their movement, you can attend a WE Club meeting on Tuesday at lunch in room D-107.

What do you think?