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Forget “American Idol” this week — focus your voting on this!

I was maybe nine or ten years old, somewhere with my father and cousin (and others? I don’t remember). A man walked up to us, timid and hesitant.

Kami then.

“May I have your autograph?” he asked my cousin. “I’m a big fan.” She smiled and signed her name for him. I was in awe.

My cousin, Kami Cotler, eight and a half years older than I, starred for nine seasons on the award-winning TV show, “The Waltons,” as Elizabeth, the youngest Walton sibling. With her thick mane of red hair, she is instantly recognizable to anyone who followed the stories of John-Boy and his family over the years.

Kami grew up — from age 6 to 16 — on the set of the show, but unlike the myriad child-stars of her day, Kami did not travel down that road of child-actor gone bad. She didn’t make headlines due to drugs, or worse. Instead, she became an educator, at one point moving to and teaching in the very area those Walton kids grew up.

Kami now.

Kami is now the principal for a new start-up middle school charter school, which is an expansion of Environmental Charter High School of Lawndale, CA. She is passionate about education, so it was no surprise to me when she activated the Cotler Cousin Network (okay, she made that up on the spot — but it worked!) to let us know about ECHS and their race for the top. Right now, through midnight Thursday, April 29 – there is a competition among six very deserving high schools to bring President Obama to deliver their commencement address, and ECHS is one of those six schools.

All six schools are putting forth excellent efforts to win. Environmental Charter High School (ECHS’s application video is below, along with some press from the nightly news), is the most deserving, in my opinion, because:

  • ECHS is the only environmental school in the finals.
  • Compared to the other finalists, ECHS serves the highest percentage of socio-economically disadvantaged students.
  • Not all the schools have random, open enrollment– ECHS does.
  • And for those of you on the West Coast, FYI, ECHS is the only west coast school in the running.

You can help Environmental Charter High School bring President Obama to graduation. Voting is open RIGHT NOW at


  1. Go to
  2. View the 6 videos (you can vote and press next to move on to the next video)
  3. Rate each video from 1-5 (5 being best)
    Please give ECHS a 5!

Learn more about ECHS:

Please forward this voting information!

About ECHS in their own words: ECHS is alive. We’re blocks from the world’s most congested freeway, yet we step onto campus with fruit trees and a running stream of reclaimed water, which was once asphalt, and we know we’re in an environment designed to envision a better life. As freshmen evaluate community health, sophomores debate the sustainability of progress, juniors examine the American dream, and we ask, “How are we powerful?” In our urbanite amphitheatre, we showcase art, host composting workshops, and train freshmen for success at ECHS. We give tours and present solutions and best practices, so 98% of us feel comfortable public speaking. With more graduation requirements than schools nationally, we pack our schedules with AP and college courses and exceed service requirements. ECHS is challenging; but, we thrive – we’ve learned education is empowerment and graduation is a milestone on our journey to a better world. We are 68% Latino, 20% African-American, 78% low income. Arriving 2.5 grade levels behind peers in math and English, by graduation we outperform national averages. 92% of us were accepted into universities in 2009 and most are first in our families to attend. We’re prepared to redefine the American Dream, rewrite our futures and heal our planet.

To quote my sister, Kami “COULD have been another washed up, depressing story in Us Weekly, but no, instead she has devoted her life to education, especially for underprivileged kids.”

Go Kami! Go ECHS! Please vote.

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