The west side of Long Beach is (depending on your perspective) what most people would call “ghetto;” it’s definitely not the most affluent area in the city, but it’s also most definitely not the most run down. Cabrillo High School is an interesting landmark in the west because it is a representation of both sides of Long Beach: the “ghetto” and the affluent.
Opening in September 1996, CHS was originally a partial school, only schooling kids from grades 9 and 10 and then transferring students to other schools to finish off their high school education. With a student body of a little less than 1,000 students, it came as a surprise once both the student body and surrounding community successfully worked towards making Cabrillo a full-fledged high school offering education up until the 12th grade. 3 years later, the graduating class of 1999 comprised of a whopping 75 students.
Today, Cabrillo High School has grown to 3,000 students and staff and offers a litany of courses ranging from regular to accelerated and even AP college-level courses. Along with this, they offer students the opportunity to be placed into a Small Learning Community of their choice in order to help them explore possible career paths, much like pursuing a major in college. Some of these disciplines include: Cabrillo Academy of Law and Justice (CAL-J), Cabrillo Academy of Business (CAB), and Specialized Academy of Computer Media, Arts and Animation (SACMAA). Consequently, as these learning communities grew, more aspects of the school began to reflect this growth as well; at the time of my graduation, Cabrillo was the leading school for animation and digital media (pretty sure they still hold that title), had companies such as BOEING cultivate and offer internships to engineering students, and also held legitimate small claims court cases with a student jury and ROTC on a regular basis. On top of that, our orchestra and dance team are award-winning juggernauts in their own right as well and have fame that extends beyond the school district (I’m talking performing at Disneyland on a regular basis and competing with other schools outside of the district and WINNING). With that, I am still nowhere near close to explaining all the other rad things that go on in this space.
The campus is very modern and updated and is also massive; it can easily accommodate more people and has been likened to a college campus in regards to size and appearance, which has also led to a couple of movies and shows being filmed there (i.e. Dodgeball, GLEE) . The reason for the institutions size and modernity can be attributed to the fact that the location was previously a Navy housing unit, explaining the better-than-average rooms and work out facilities in comparison to other schools in the district.
Now it can be quite obvious that I have love for my school, but even without the bias, anyone looking at the institution can see and learn about the greatness itself. As the youngest school in the LBUSD, many people like to talk down on the school for not being the best at sports amongst other things. But what the people outside of the school don’t know is that Cabrillo is on its way to achieving that, and in the meantime, we’re already achieving quite a bit besides sports. I feel that Cabrillo’s location is perfect; the surrounding suburban area isn’t affluent like Bixby Knolls or Belmont Shore, but there is definitely a feeling of being at home. People may consider the west side ghetto because the streets and stores are rundown and because there are a lot of people who act “hood.” There aren’t too many two story houses and you more often than occasionally get a whiff of some herb. But nevertheless, the people here are living the same way as the people living in Bixby Knolls and Belmont shore: they do what they want, they just don’t have as much money, but they’re working on that. Likewise, Cabrillo fits into the community in the same way; from the outside, people judge the school based on what they want to perceive, but if given a chance, one will change their thoughts and opinions once they see and experience the inside. Its just a matter of time until Cabrillo High School becomes as recognized as Poly High School or Wilson, but in the meantime, the school is just laying back in the cut and crafting its own legacy in areas that other schools are lacking. The school’s growth itself has helped and allowed the community to grow in some ways too, leading to the completion of Admiral Kidd park across the street, the increase in businesses focused on the youth (P-Lay Card/Game shop and various food places across the street), and more community events being thrown in the area to help promote community identity and bring down gang violence and influence. The way I see it, the growth of Cabrillo will help raise the living standards that the surrounding community has so it will be interesting to see where not only Cabrillo but the suburban area around the school will be in a few years from now.