I Will be Leading Our Advocacy in Greater Houston: Here’s My hope for Latino Students and Families
By: Sandra Rodriguez
As a Houston native, I’ve spent 20 years working to support and uplift the Latino community in a number of different capacities, both in my work life and in my life outside of the office. I’m thrilled to begin the next chapter in my life’s work as the Advocacy Director for Greater Houston at Latinos for Education.
In this role, I will build our Greater Houston advocacy strategy from the ground up, lead local education and research efforts in the area and activate our network in Houston and beyond to elevate the Latino voice and advocate on behalf of Latino students and families.
Currently, the Latino parent voice makes up a small percentage of speakers signed up to speak at the HISD board meetings, but we know that Latino parents are critical to advancing Latino education priorities. That’s why part of my work will also be launching a parent advocacy program to build a greater understanding among the parents in our community of the opportunity to influence changes in the educational experiences’ children have and to develop their self-efficacy and the skills they need to do this effectively.
The program, launching this summer, will help parents develop a baseline understanding of school quality, identify challenges affecting their child’s education, develop solutions to address these challenges, and create organizing opportunities to present their parent-led agenda. We’re going to be engaging and activating bilingual Latino parents, as well as Spanish speaking Latino parents who are often left behind when it comes to incorporating diverse, community perspectives.
While this program is set to launch this summer, I’ve made it a priority to hit the ground running in my new role. With the search for the new Superintendent underway, this opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m less than 90 days into the job, and I’ve already got my first Board of Trustees meeting under my belt. After surveying close to 100 Latinos, half of whom are parents of children in HISD, we presented their suggestions, priorities, and demands to the Board of Trustees during their latest board meeting. This is only the beginning of this effort, because we know how important it is to ensure that Latino voices are being not only heard, but centered as this critical decision is being made that will shape the future trajectory of our schools.
Our advocacy around the selection of the next HISD Superintendent is just one of the many things that excites me about my role here. I’ve spent my life working as a connector, reaching out to our community members where they are to ensure they have access to the resources they need, that their voices are heard, and that their opinions are valued. I believe strongly in working collectively to develop equitable and sustainable solutions to address core issues, and nothing is more fundamental than the education of our youth.
I’m committed to expanding our work to the diverse Latino community of Greater Houston and uniting us through a common vision of ensuring equitable educational opportunities for our students. I’ll work to instill in our students and families a vision of themselves as leaders, and I will continue bridging across cultures and uplifting Latino voices.
We still have a long way to go when it comes to breaking down barriers of opportunity for the next generation of Latino students and COVID-19 hasn’t made this any easier. The challenges from this past year will be felt for a long time to come, but we are up to the task.
Sixty-two percent of the students in Houston ISD are Latino. That means that our Latino community is vast, strong, and critical. Our wins are everyone’s wins, and our schools cannot be successful without ensuring that the needs of our Latino students are front and center.
We must see increased Latino representation across the education sector, improved educational outcomes in literacy and math, and increased parent engagement. I will make sure that Latino voices continue to be centered and incorporated by our local leaders.
I look forward to working with you, and for you, in this effort.
Sandra Rodríguez is the Advocacy Director at Latinos for Education where she leads the organization’s efforts to elevate Latino voices in decision making to increase educational outcomes. She previously served in the Houston Mayor’s Anti-Gang Office and Houston Health Department overseeing program planning.