This story comes to us from NBC Latino.
Steven Michael Quezada, who plays D.E.A. agent, Steven Gomez, in the AMC hit, “Breaking Bad,” is applying for a new part-time role in real life. He is running unopposed for a seat on the school board in his hometown of Albuquerque, NM.
“I’m always busy, but I’ve always been helping kids,” says the award-winning comedian and actor, who has worked in gang intervention since 1987 and now teaches film making at Youth Development, Inc. “I failed in college, and I thought I would fight for kids. It’s important to me that we give these kids a fighting chance. I don’t want them to struggle like I did.”
Quezada, 49, says starting in March, he would like to represent the newly-created district in his hometown, which is largely Latino, and where three of his four children are currently enrolled in school. He says he has three goals on his agenda: to increase funding in order to decrease class sizes from 40 to 20; to give kids an alternative place to learn, because a lot of kids can’t survive educationally using a traditional curriculum; and thirdly, to bring more mental health professionals into schools, because teachers can’t diagnose kids themselves.
“I’ve done all I can in those programs,” says the active actor. “The next step is to sit on the school board…February 5 is the election, but I still need people to go vote. We need a big turnout to show people really care about education. There’s a lot of problems, a lot, but it’s going to be a big fight.”
He says what he believes led to his failure in school, as well as the approximate 40 percent of high school students who drop out in Albuquerque, is the lack of the education system understanding that all kids learn uniquely.
“The school system doesn’t really pay attention to kids who think artistically,” says the man, without a teaching degree, who now successfully teaches math and history through film making. “I wasn’t really good in history or math when I was in school, and teachers don’t pay attention to you when you don’t understand.”
He says artists think with another side of the brain, and the regular school curriculum doesn’t pertain to them, so they lose interest in the material and don’t want to do the work.
“It drives me crazy when people say art doesn’t matter,” says Quezada. “We need people to understand that we’re smart…It took me many years to figure it out.”
He eventually studied theater at Eastern New Mexico University, but he says it’s been a long struggle. Along the way, he says he never stopped helping those kids following in his footsteps by funding for more programs — especially those in the arts.
“The first thing I hear is we need to hire more math and science teachers, but we need more film and art teachers,” says Quezada, who used to teach gang members how to write plays. “All you do is keep putting them in those classes and ruin their self-esteem and confidence.”
He says educators don’t realize what you would learn in running a play, and in a way many students can relate to — taking away their fear of learning and giving them confidence.
“They get engaged and don’t realize they’ve learned history, writing…” explains Quezada. “If kids have confidence, that’s the biggest thing you can give them. They can do anything, and are more willing to do anything, if they have confidence.”
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