2021 Year in Review: Despite Challenges, A Landmark Year for Latinos for Education
By: Amanda Fernandez
When Latinos succeed, we all succeed. This belief has guided our organization since its inception five years ago, but especially throughout the pandemic it was a reminder of why we need to fight even harder to ensure the voice of the Latino community stays front and center in policy discussions, and in the education sector.
Afterall, had it not been for the sacrifice and work of the Latino community, the devastating blow the pandemic dealt all of us would have been far more severe. Latinos across the country showed up during our nation’s time of need, as frontline workers, nurses, first responders, childcare workers and educators even when their families themselves were being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Many local economies and safety nets survived because of Latinos; and this is just the latest example of how vital Latinos are to the success of our country, and why we must invest in their success.
While 2021 had its ups and downs, I hope you each found ways to take care of yourselves and find the inspiration you needed to keep fighting for educational equity.
I found inspiration in the Latino parents and guardians who continue to play a key role in their children’s education, while juggling their own professional and personal commitments. The pandemic has made it clear that parents are key and central to the academic success of students; and it is clear our schools should be engaging them as partners in crafting the solutions and policies that improve student learning.
America’s dream of educational equity demands fierce commitment and collective action.
Latinos for Education is scaling fast to meet the challenges of this critical moment.
As we kick off the giving season, we are renewing our pledge to focus all our resources and energy on repairing, rebuilding, and reimagining a new education system.
Please join us by making a year-end gift. Together, we can rise up with one voice to claim equitable opportunity for our students.
This year we launched Familias Latinas por la Educación, a fellowship program that gives parents the tools, resources and network to play a leadership role in shaping Houston’s education system. 20 phenomenal Latina mothers and guardians participated in this program and their advocacy is already creating lasting change. Just last month Houston ISD adopted an amendment to make simultaneous interpretation services mandatory at all board meetings, a change these mothers had been advocating for since releasing their vision for education equity. I can’t wait to see what these mothers accomplish in 2022.
I also found inspiration in the Latino educators and school leaders who – despite being 20 months into the pandemic – continue to show up for students and help them on their educational journey, even in the face of adversity. Latino educators already face uphill battles entering a profession that remains 80% white, and when they do enter the teaching profession we know they often have to take on additional roles and responsibilities, serving as cultural brokers, family engagement specialists, diversity officers with no additional compensation. This “brown tax” is difficult, yet Latino educators continue to persevere – as many did during the pandemic.
We continued our advocacy in Massachusetts this year to open the door for more Latinos to enter the teaching profession, and to support those who are already teaching. The Educator Diversity Act is not only bringing together diverse stakeholders around a shared vision that values and supports educators of color, but it’s showing us how we can create systems and infrastructures that invest in these educators. Nationally, our fellowship programs aimed at growing the voice and influence of Latinos in the education sector continue to grow – the fact that Latinos keep applying, showing up and giving up their weekends to be in community with each other, reminds me of why we started these programs in the first place.
And I found inspiration in having diverse Latinos from across the country coming together around a shared commitment and vision of educational equity for Latino students. We launched our first ever State of Latino Education event this year because we wanted to provide a platform for our community to be in conversation with each other on how we create a new path forward for Latino students. Despite everyone’s busy schedules, and Zoom fatigue, more than 900 community leaders, policymakers, and educators joined us for this event; and it warmed my heart to know that we have a large network that is ready to fight for Latino students.
None of these accomplishments would have been possible without my tremendous, and growing team. Today, the organization stands at over 20 employees and has a presence from Massachusetts, to Texas, California and across the nation. They show up bringing their authentic selves to the work, ensure we are bringing our community’s perspective to everything we do, and they show me what we can accomplish, when we do it con ganas!
There are clear challenges ahead in 2022 that we’re excited to tackle. We’ll continue to support Latino educators and school leaders so their voice and representation in the education sector only grows. We’ll continue to ensure that Latino families also have a voice in the education system, and they play leadership roles in decision-making. We’ll also continue to ensure that federal, state and local resources and investments – from cradle to career- are equitably distributed to Latino students and families, because when we invest in the success of Latinos, we all succeed.
Amanda Fernandez is the CEO and Founder of Latinos for Education, the first Latino-founded and led national organization dedicated to creating leadership pathways for emerging Latino education leaders and diversifying education nonprofit boards. She is a Trustee of the Board with the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Roxbury Community College. El Planeta has twice named her one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in Massachusetts and she is a Senior Fellow at FutureEd. Amanda has over 25 years of experience in the areas of recruiting, diversity, organization development, change management, strategic planning, and Latino community relations.