I was born in Washington, D.C. to parents from Cuba and Colombia. Up until second grade, I attended elementary school in one of the top rated school districts in the nation right outside of the City. But, when my family dynamic changed, my grandmother and I moved to a part of Maryland that is not known for high quality schools. I was 7-years-old and I already knew that the schools I’d have to go to were “bad.” Where I lived, going outside to play was dangerous and our schools reflected that environment. So, I lied—it was my idea even at that young age. I went to the secretary at my “good school” days after I crossed the line into another county and told them I’d only moved to Flower Avenue- a few blocks from the school. In reality, that was my aunt’s address but saying I lived there kept me from having to change schools.
I had to make those decisions and negotiate my own life roadmap—it’s what you do as the kid of a first generation immigrant where I come from. You become the family spokesperson, the researcher and the interpreter. It makes you grow up faster than most but it also gives you insight to systems and processes that most children never have to think about.
See, I loved going to school. I had hopes and dreams that were beyond what my grandmother who raised me could ever imagine and I knew education was the key to accomplishing what I wanted in life. So, I weighed my options and justified my lie because I didn’t think it was my fault that where I lived obligated me to go to a “bad” school—all schools should be great but I didn’t have the time to wait for that change to happen.
Decades later, I’m at Stand because I want to be part of that change—the change that never happened for my neighborhood school. I don’t want other children and parents to feel like they have to figure out how to navigate a system to ensure their child receives a high quality education—especially when those parents might not speak English, might not have had very much formal education or are just too busy working multiple jobs to provide for their children that they can’t devote countless hours to fight for what should be a clear right for all students. Our children deserve better. I was fortunate, lucky perhaps. The quality of a child’s education should never have to rest on luck.
Hispanic Heritage Month is from September 15 - October 15. This year, at Stand, we’ve chosen to profile some of our Latina colleagues to share the personal journeys that led them to Stand and why our work means so much to them. We invite you to read, learn, and agree to join us in taking action for social justice. By joining this group, you’ll be among the first to receive action alerts on issues that impact our communities everywhere from racial justice and criminal justice, to other issues that speak to the inequities our children experience and what you can do to help. Please read these stories and consider also telling us what your journey has been and how those experiences have driven your interest in ensuring that all students have access to a high quality education.