Q&A: What is Stand for Children doing?

Parent & Family Engagement, Who We Are | 06/28/2019

Natalie Hester
Statewide Organizing Director, Stand for Children Washington

I’ve been at Stand for Children Washington for three months as our Statewide Organizing Director. Since coming on, I’ve been asking the same questions over and over again to make sure I understand what we’ve done as an organization and where want to go. Who are we working with? What are we trying to do? How are we getting there?

Being new here, I’m trying to take advantage of my fresh perspective and identify what we can do better. To get started, I’ve gathered what I’ve learned so far and answered some of the big questions I had coming into this position. These are questions I know that others in our community have too, so that’s why I’m bringing them here.

Before I get into my answers, though, this isn’t about me just telling you what we do. It is critical to my work to know what you, the community members and families in Washington, want to do for our kids and our public schools. I believe that we need to support every kid in getting a rigorous, high-quality education, but we can’t do it alone. After you’re done here, participate in my online Washington Listening Session and we'll get there together.

Q: What is Stand for Children Washington trying to do?

  • That’s a big question! Simply put, we want every student in Washington to graduate high school with a relevant, high-quality education. Our path to that goal throughout the past 12 years has include partnering with community and families, supporting school districts, and advocating at the state legislature to fund programming that is proven to help kids.
  • In my job, I’m in charge of Family Engagement & Organizing. My part in our mission is building relationships with community members, parents, and families and getting you all involved in the process of change-making. That usually looks like hosting free workshops to connect families with local schools and then working together as a team to raise our collective voice and improve public schools for our kids.
  • Our staff is small, so I work closely with my colleagues who focus on communications, policy, district partnerships, and fundraising. When it matters, our teams of families also get involved in state policymaking in Olympia by meeting one-on-one with our representatives and testifying in front of committees. Everything we do is in service of our goal: get every kid to graduate ready for the college and career pathway they choose.

Q: How do you organize people at Stand?

  • We start by connecting families with their local school. That looks like hosting workshops such as “College Debt Management” and “Transitioning to High School with an IEP” and partnering with the school to contact parents and invite them to come.
  • It’s important to us to make our workshops accessible to folks who may not be interacting on a regular basis with their school and are busy supporting their families. That’s why our workshops are always free, and childcare and food are provided at no cost. At our workshops, we invite participants to join our advocacy team by becoming a member of Stand for Children if they're interested. Being a member means joining a community of like-minded individuals who want to be engaged with their public schools, receiving free training from us on how to best advocate for your kids, and committing to take two actions in support of public education this year.

Q: Where is Stand working right now in Washington?

  • There are two answers to this question. First, let me start with where we actually have people: I’m based in South Seattle and work with folks in King, Snohomish, Pierce and Thurston counties. Darcelina Soloria is our Organizer in Spokane and she’s been organizing families there since 2017. She works primarily within Spokane Public Schools (District 81) at the schools we’ve identified as having the highest need for our support: Rogers H.S., North Central H.S., Shaw M.S, and Garry M.S.
  • The second answer to this question is that our work really is statewide. The policies we advocate for at the state legislature affect every school district, so I travel throughout the state and connect virtually with people in communities from Port Angeles to Yakima. We’re not everywhere that I want us to be just yet, but we’re doing our best to connect with passionate education advocates across the state.

Q: Who else do you work with?

  • It’s no surprise that we’re not the only education advocacy organization out there (thank goodness). In order to coordinate our efforts, we work closely with a number of organizations and government agencies for the benefit of kids. As part of the High School Success Coalition - a group of organizations advocating for legislation that is proven to improve graduation rates - we work with Black Education Strategy Roundtable, Graduate Tacoma, Treehouse, College Success Foundation, Schools Out Washington, and the Washington Roundtable.
  • In Spokane, we are close partners with District 81, the Zone Project, AIER, and the Every Student Counts Alliance.
  • As part of our work directly supporting school districts, we’ve partnered with districts including Highline Public Schools, Evergreen Public Schools, Chelan School District, Federal Way Public Schools, and Pride Prep Charter School. We’re in the process of formalizing partnerships with 7 other districts for the 2019-20 year right now - more to come on that soon!
  • At the state level, we have built strong relationships with the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and members of the Washington State Legislature.

Q: Why do you do this work?

  • Because I want to live in a world where public schools are a place for every kid to thrive and dream big. There are educators all over Washington state - and around the country - doing amazing work for kids. We want to elevate the work of schools that are successfully supporting all of their kids through graduation, and we want to learn from educators and community members in order to make every public school a place where students can succeed. Education is a game-changer for kids of color and kids from low-income families. At Stand, we bring a focus on equity to everything that we do. The reality is that our education system will continue to perpetuate inequity and it will continue to underserve the students who need it most unless we come together and implement programming and policy that is proven to work for those kids. That’s why I’m here and why I do this.

Thank you for taking the time to get to know me and this organization. I’d love to hear from you! Please take a moment to join our Washington Listening Session by filling out this short survey I’ve put together. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at nhester@stand.org. I look forward to connecting with you.

Join the Listening Session

 

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