TECS Alumnus, Zennon Ulyate-Crow

Amy Weisberg, M.Ed.By Amy Weisberg, M.Ed.

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TECS Alumnus, Zennon Ulyate-Crow
Transitional Kindergarten (TK) class photo (October 2007)
Zennon Ulyate-Crow had a great start to his education at Topanga Elementary Charter School (TECS) and has many paths to choose from as he starts college. Zennon was part of a memorable TK class I had in 2007. They were a group of enthusiastic children and their equally enthusiastic parents. It was the year I presented an idea for computer mini labs in classrooms so students could access computers any time, not just the day they were scheduled to go to the school computer lab. Their parents helped me write grants to fund the project, a classroom mini-lab of eight Mac computers, and helped the children create projects, including stop-motion movies.
Zennon’s Noah’s Arc project after a field trip to the Skirball Museum (2007)
Zennon’s Noah’s Arc project after a field trip to the Skirball Museum (2007)

We also took a field trip to the newly opened Noah’s Arc exhibit at the Skirball Museum. I had attended a teacher training about the exhibit for ways to incorporate art and music in the classroom. As a result of the field trip and the overwhelmingly positive response to it, we created a class book of each child in the class with the animals they made of recycled materials. Parents spearheaded the project, took the photos, and created the book. One copy was gifted to the museum and it remains there as an example to donors and supporters of the museum of the positive influence the museum can have on children.

Zennon, 18, culminated from TECS in 2014 and continues to be an active community member and an involved citizen.
Twin Day 2011 with Niko Dakhlia
“One of my fondest memories is learning about a math concept in Ms. Tapper’s class and suddenly realizing that there was possibly another way to solve the problem,” Zennon recalled. “I wasn’t sure if the method was correct or not, so I decided to stay after class into recess in order to ask Ms. Tapper to let me stay in class with her during the break, helping guide my thought process until we arrived at the correct “other” way to solve the problem.

Although this was only a small moment in my time at Topanga Elementary, it stuck with me as it perfectly exemplifies the type of school TECS is, a place where students are given the resources to learn and staff who will go above and beyond to help enrich that desire to learn. Just the small act of my teacher giving up part of her break to help me individually meant a lot, and for the many such moments that I experienced at Topanga, I’m extremely grateful.

“I also recall obsessively drawing road maps during my classes throughout the years and consistently getting in trouble for it. Although my teachers thought the drawings were unique and interesting when just considering the art itself, the fact I was working on them during instructional times left a condemnatory frown on their faces. I remember on numerous occasions I would get these drawings confiscated and have to wait until the end of class to pick them up again, only to repeat the same cycle the next day.

“During our Catalina trip we were told to not bring candy of any type, but of course, being fifth graders nearly everybody snuck heaps of candy in their bags. Our ferry was late, and it took longer than expected to walk over to the campsite, so by the time we got there we had to frantically drop our bags in the tents and run to the shore as the camp counselors had been waiting at the beach for some time.

“After the activities were finished, I remember being one of the first people to come back to campsite and rounding a bend to see a coyote standing in the middle of the trail. At first, I thought the animal was extremely cute, but then I saw it was holding a backpack in its mouth, and soon I realized nearly every tent had been raided by animals. Everybody rushed up the trail after word spread of the coyote and, sure enough, the floor of each tent was covered in the wrappers of the candy bars we had brought. Since we had quickly dropped off our stuff, everyone forgot to secure the tents to make sure animals couldn’t get in. Some people had their stuff taken and clothes chewed up by the coyotes, so for the rest of the trip we were reminded each day of the havoc that had been wreaked upon us. Other than this one incident, however, the trip was a great success and stays with me as one of my most vivid memories from TECS.”
Speaking in Sacramento during the annual Youth & Government mock California Legislature conference. (February 2019)
Making a Difference
Zennon is interested in politics and community change. He has been involved in the Youth in Government YMCA (through the Palisades/Malibu YMCA program), a program culminating in the Youth in Government Conference, a model State Government. At the February 2019 conference he was appointed Director of the Department of Finance where he oversaw budget proposals through a mock Senate Assembly designed to create proposals and vie for the student Governor’s signature.

At Palisades High School, Zennon has been interested in individual activism arguing for pass/fail grades due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He went to school board meetings to argue his point and eventually, working together, they developed a compromise that expanded the grading bands. Zennon advocated for bus routes to continue and proposed express bus routes for his fellow students who often faced long commutes from Santa Monica to Pali High. The new express routes made the commute shorter for his fellow students.
Chilling in Marina Del Rey. (September 2020)
His future aspirations include attending college with a focus on political science and urban planning, possibly getting a Masters’ degree in public policy. He also is interested in climate, stating that science classes, beginning with the outdoor science education at TECS, had a big impact on him. He sees a future in government working on legislation that is policy oriented, focusing on housing, transportation, and climate. It is clear that his education has given him multiple paths to choose from and his character and personality are the foundation of a young man who will make a difference.

As of this writing, Zennon has been accepted and will attend the University of California at Santa Cruz, majoring in Politics. Of course!
Amy Weisberg, M.Ed.

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