I Have Learned More Than I Could Have Ever Imagined: A Mother’s Story From Familias Latinas Por La Educación

By: Vanessa Zavala Llovet, Familias Latinas Por La Educación Alum

Read the Spanish version here!

When someone asks me why I became a part of Familias Latinas por la Educación, there are multiple reasons I could list. But at the top of that list is: I’m a mom. I am a mom of three children – two boys and one girl – that have each faced their own challenges as students in Houston ISD. 

So when I saw the Familias Latinas por la Educación Fellowship on navigating the education system being advertised at their local school, I knew I needed to take advantage – not only for my sake, but for the sake of my children’s learning and their futures. Each one of my kids has a special need that requires certain adaptations to be made throughout their school day, whether that be additional teaching support or small changes in curriculum. 

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My kids are not the only ones – they are three out of the 1.8 million Latinx students with a learning disability. And every parent of a child with a learning disability knows that there is a steep learning curve when it comes to knowing everything there is to know about special education and how it affects students.  

In order to climb that curve and ensure that my kids receive a quality education, I knew that I needed to understand the inner workings of the public school system, as well as the issues that are at the forefront of discussions between district leaders. Awareness of the district’s special education protocols, as well as accessibility and equitable opportunity for all Latino students, became crucial to me. 

Turns out, participating in Familias Latinas Por La Educación was exactly what I needed. Throughout my time in the Magnolia Park cohort, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined. Familias Latinas Por La Educación gives parents the space to discuss topics that are important to us and in turn, advocate for those issues as a collective. The cohort has opened my eyes to other parents’ perspectives and ongoing struggles, and has equipped us with the tools and resources to feel comfortable speaking at school board meetings and in other capacities.

Most importantly, the Fellowship builds and provides community. It has brought me great comfort to know that other parents within my cohort face similar challenges, and some of their children overcome the same struggles as mine. Familias Latinas Por La Educación has also created a space for us to bring light to issues that are specific to the Latino community. Very few school board members, principals, or superintendents are from the Latino community, so they may not be in tune to the needs of our families. 

But with groups like Familias Latinas Por La Educación, we are able to amplify our needs. We are able to have conversations that bridge language gaps, establish support for students of all backgrounds and abilities, and create pathways to equitable education for all. 

I am excited to continue using my voice, and leaning on other Latino parents from Familias Latinas, to ensure that the needs of all Latino students are prioritized by school and district leaders, but especially for Latino students who might have special needs and might feel like they don’t have an advocate that is championing their needs.


Vanessa Zavala Llovet is a mother of three students at Houston ISD, and a Familias Latinas Por La Educación alum from the Magnolia Park cohort.