I grew up in Los Angeles. I’m the oldest of five girls. And both my parents are from Mexico. And like so many immigrant parents, my parents stressed the importance of education. I remember working on homework with my dad at the kitchen table as early as Kindergarden. He’d always have an eraser or a fresh stack of paper so that when I made a mistake he could erase the error or crumple up the piece of paper and make me start over. And that was our nightly ritual until about Middle School when I had to start doing homework on my own. But by that point my parents had instilled such a strong work ethic in me, that I was automatically pushing myself to excel. Thanks to their support and the guidance of great teachers I got into Yale University–a total dream come true.
Later in college, I learned about educational inequality, terms like the “achievement gap” and about the unfavorable odds of students with my background ending up in college. Once I grasped the life-changing effect that education had caused in my family, I decided to go back home and become a teacher.
I entered the teaching profession with a ton of hope and idealism, but I left quite heartbroken. Despite my best intentions, teaching wore me down. The late nights working alone left me feeling isolated and overworked. And my school often struggled with just proving the basics – books, class schedules, sometimes even enough desks for my classroom. So I turned to graduate school thinking that I might find another profession that would allow me to make an impact on education.
I took Marshall’s organizing course while I was a graduate student. The skills that I learned in the course reignited by passion for students’ rights and educational equity. Learning from my peers and their projects also filled me with ideas and inspiration. My learning team was also incredibly supportive. Their coaching was consistently helpful; I always felt that they were just as invested in my project as I was. I was eager to take the new tools I had learned in the course back to my community. And that is what I did. I went back home but this time as an organizer. And I spent the next 3.5 years doing parent organizing work and applying this leadership and organizing framework to campaigns for improved public schools. I’ve also stayed connected to LCN ever since. I served as a Teaching Fellow for the online distance learning course and I’ve been a coach and presenter at LCN workshops.
I know that this practice has played a similar role in many of your own lives – many of you have also faced self-doubt and disappointment, but this practice restored your hope and sense of possibility. I’m excited to serve on LCN’s board and look forward to meeting more of you as we work to expand the reach of the Network.