From Tragedy to Triumph: A Mother's Story

Current Events & News, Early Childhood Education, Who We Are | 02/07/2017

Patrick McReynolds Arizona Marketing & Communications Director

As Marketing and Communications Director, Patrick spreads the message about the good Arizona parents and students are doing, and ways the state could help them and their teachers do even better.

She sees his face every day in their smiles.  She hears his voice in their laughter.  She feels his presence… and knows he would be so proud.

As Cecilia Laguna Galvez prepares to launch a tutoring program for struggling students in the Murphy Elementary School District, she can’t help but think of her own son Javier, who tragically was taken from her in a late night accident just a few short months ago.

Javier, after all, was the reason Cecilia became active in education to begin with.  He was 5 when they first came to America.  Neither spoke English.  And when she enrolled him in school, she had no way to communicate her concerns for his curriculum.  She studied Psychology in college in Mexico, but in the United States, Cecilia didn’t even know if she was allowed to ask questions of Javier’s teachers, and couldn’t understand them if she did.

By chance, at a parent resource center, she met Stand for Children Arizona organizer, Lilianna Hutcheson.  Lili was training parents on exactly what Cecilia longed to hear; specifics on how school districts work, what information is available, and how to get involved.  Cecilia signed up with Stand, and has been a member ever since.

In eight years of activism, Cecilia developed quite the list of accomplishments.  She has registered voters, informed them about school board candidates and helped pass an override measure in the Murphy Elementary School District.

But at the same time, she saw Javier having trouble with his homework, losing interest in school, and getting involved with the wrong crowd.  She couldn’t get him the help he needed from his district.  And his frustration soon turned to indifference.

Last September, Javier’s car battery died on the highway.  And when he got out to open the hood, he was struck by a drunk driver and killed.

Amidst the intense grief that any mother would feel after the senseless death of her first born, Cecilia discovered a cause.  She didn’t want any other child to lose their way because they can’t get the help they need with their studies.  She couldn’t stand the thought of another student drifting away from that sense of connection simply because they no longer felt they belonged.

So, on January 23rd, Cecilia co-launched Stand for Children Arizona’s second tutoring program in the Murphy Elementary School District.  50 high school honor students from Carl Hayden High School are now tutoring 60 elementary school students, most with language barriers and backgrounds similar to what Javier faced.

It’s a big undertaking.  Cecilia is nervous.  But she knows this program will give children the tools and support her son didn’t have.  This opportunity gives her a chance to correct patterns of the past.  It allows her son to live on through her work.  And when the cafeteria is filled with young voices giggling, questioning, learning – Cecilia knows Javier will be watching.  A loving nod to his mother’s tribute… and newfound purpose.

Stand for Children Arizona has created interactive websites in both English and Spanish to aide you in helping your children with their homework. and

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