How I Expanded My Role as an Educator to Become an Advocate for Latino Communities

By: Maritere Mix

Blog Maritere Mix

In 2017, I embarked on a journey with ten Latino leaders to become advocates for students and the Latino community across Boston. Together, we were a part of the inaugural cohort of the Latino Board Fellowship, an innovative program to train, match and support Latino leaders to join the Board of Directors at local education nonprofits and schools. Thanks to the fellowship, I joined a board and feel well-prepared for the many conversations that take place around those tables. 

Before the program I never imagined joining a board and learning how organizations can improve their impact in our community from the inside. While I am grateful this experience exposed me to opportunities to more effectively support students, it also taught me the proverbial table at which I must take a seat is much larger than the one in the boardroom. As Latinos, it is critical we collectively use our voices to advocate for our community in different spaces.

After joining the board at Citizen Schools, I stood in front of my colleagues at work to share my experience. I highlighted the Latinos for Education Board Fellowship and explained the impact of  Citizen Schools in Massachusetts. I spoke about the importance of having people like me – that are brown, Latina, and female – in spaces like nonprofit boardrooms that are predominantly white and male.  Delivering this message at my workplace was important because it is itself a predominantly white space. Reflecting on how brave I felt after this experience, I’ve learned that being an effective advocate requires shifting hearts and minds and that I need to be intentional about building bridges across lines of difference.

While I know speaking out among my colleagues matters greatly, the work does not stop there.  With so much information available about our schools and communities, I’m learning to leverage an organization like Latinos for Education to help focus my efforts. For example, when it was time for the selection of a new commissioner of education in Massachusetts, I reached out to Latinos for Education to become informed about the candidates. Once Commissioner Riley was selected, Latinos for Education held three town halls across Massachusetts so the new Commissioner could directly engage with Latino communities across the Commonwealth.  As a Latino community, these are the kinds of opportunities we should continue to engage. For us to rise as a collective, we need to stay abreast of important topics like Massachusetts’ new funding formula and continue contacting our representatives on matters that affect the Latino community.

Ultimately, as Latinos, we must become the advocates our students and communities deserve and hold ourselves accountable to that promise. We must use our collective voice and take action, especially when it’s uncomfortable.

Two years ago, adding my voice to the conversation was daunting. But now that I’ve done that, I’m inspired to take even bigger steps in the service of our community. To push myself to become a more public advocate, I am now contemplating questions such as: how can I make more noise in the best interest of students and what actions must accompany that elevated voice? How can I challenge myself – and others – to step into a public arena and agitate when necessary?

While advocacy can take many forms, we owe it to our students and families to leverage our voices and make decisions in their best interest. Whether it’s through writing a blog, giving public testimony at legislative hearings or engaging in conversations in the boardroom; our community deserves public advocates willing to stand alongside them.

To my familia of Latinos, I urge you to stay informed of the issues happening in your community and find ways to use your voice. Although individually your public action as an advocate can be overwhelming, we must realize that inaction won’t create the prosperity our children deserve. 

One way to get involved is to apply for the Latino Board Fellowship, which is now accepting applications. Visit the Latinos for Education website to learn more and apply. 

This article was co-signed by alumni from the 2017 Boston cohort of the Latino Board Fellowship:

  • Delia Arellano-Weddleton, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Board Member at Jumpstart
  • Jennifer Betancourt, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, former KIPP MA Board Member
  • Melisa Lemire, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Board Member at City on a Hill Charter School
  • Natalie Velasquez, Mulesoft, Board Member at Boston Collegiate Charter School

Maritere’s work with youth began during her college summers as an ABCD SummerWorks program counselor in East Boston. After college, she worked in the private sector for several years learning valuable marketing and project management skills. The call to work with youth compelled her to pursue a Latin teacher position at a Boston Public School, where she remained for twelve years while she also pursued her first M.Ed. in Teacher Education. After witnessing the impact of policy on instruction, she pursued a second M.Ed. in Education Policy and Management at Harvard’s GSE. Her journey at Harvard inspired her to get involved with Latinos for Education and other educational non-profits in the Boston area. In these ways, she remains engaged around policy issues even as she continues to teach middle-school Latin.