Delivering Educational Equity in El Cajon
Nestled in the heart of El Cajon is a charter school that is one of the best kept secrets in the San Diego region. The Excellence in Justice and Education Academies, better known as the EJE Academies (EJEA), serves 800 transitional kindergarten to eighth grade students with quality dual-language education in English and Spanish. Ninety-two percent of EJEA students are students of color, 90 percent are Latino/a, and 82 percent qualify for the free lunch program. They have a 600-student waiting list!
EJEA is the educational institution that could; having earned awards as the Charter School of the Year for Southern California, as a Gold Ribbon School and Distinguished School from the California Department of Education, and as one of America’s Best Urban Schools by the National Center for Urban School Transformation at San Diego State University.
Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the secret to EJEA’s success is its founding in social justice and educational equity. “We are the most mission-committed people that you will ever meet,” shares Eva Pacheco, the former elementary and middle school teacher from Guanajuato, Mexico, who led a group of parents, teachers, and education activists to start EJE Academies. Facing the closure of her community’s elementary school in 2004, Eva and a group of parent advocates successfully petitioned the Cajon Valley Unified School District to open EJEA, first as an elementary academy, later adding a middle academy and transitional kindergarten. Eventually the school grew to include a community health clinic, and a college and career alumni center. “I started as a mom volunteer Spanish teacher at my kids’ school,” Eva shared with GB Magazine, “and I just kept helping other kids who were smart and talented in Spanish and just needed dual language education to adapt, achieve and thrive.”
Eva recently retired as the Executive Director of EJEA and now spends her time raising funds to modernize EJEA’s campus, built in the 1960s. “It is a $35 million project, and we are thankful to have already received $18.5 million from the State of California.” With the determination of a teacher of 30 years, she asserted, “There can be no better legacy than to build a modern campus where students, teachers, and parents can continue the mission and the magic of EJEA, so many future generations of EJEA families will have the opportunity for a brighter future.”