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Elementary aged Latina girl smiles at camera wearing backpack holding book

Dear colleagues and friends: 

I’m a first-generation, U.S.-born Latina who grew up in a neighborhood where no one looked like me — not because they were white or affluent, but because Latinos don’t always share the same skin tone, appearance, or even language. We’re a complex, diverse, and beautiful mix of people with ancestral ties to all corners of the world. Raised by my grandmother in Prince Georges County, Maryland, a community where the concentration of Latino immigrants hail from Central America, I’m the daughter of Cuban-Chinese-Spanish exiles and Colombian immigrants, so my family was unique. My lived experiences differed greatly from my peers, especially when the school communicated with my caregiver. I didn’t feel represented in my classroom, and my Central American peers didn’t either — we did have that in common. 

I didn’t know what Hispanic Heritage Month was until my junior year of high school. All those years attending schools in Montgomery County — known as one of the premiere school systems in the nation at the time — and all I learned about Latinos centered on the Spanish-American War and Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Who knew there were 30 days dedicated to celebrating “us,” assuming that was the intention? My progressive and highly-resourced school district sure didn’t tell me that. 

Somehow, against the data and the odds, I “made it.” I finished college, earned three master’s degrees, and now have the honor of working to achieve change for kids who grow up in environments like I did — all of whom deserve better. These children deserve to be seen and taught in ways that speak to their needs and allow them opportunities to succeed. They deserve to be encouraged to feel pride in their identities and to have their talents affirmed. 

As we enter Hispanic Heritage Month on September 15, take a step back and think about how your work positions Latino/a kids to overcome the historic and systemic barriers challenging their ability to reach their full potential. Nationwide, there are so many opportunities to do better. Let’s be innovative in our approach to family engagement, cultural relevance, identity-affirming curriculum and environment, and tools that bring communities together in the interest of supporting the unique needs of this demographic. Remember: we aren’t all the same, we don’t look the same, and we don’t all have the same needs, but we are in a time where opportunities are abundant to improve outcomes for Brown kids like me. 

With gratitude,

Jessica Mayorga, Managing Director, External Relations

Featured Updates

Beth Rabbitt's Testimony to TX Commission on Virtual Education

TLA CEO Beth Rabbitt spoke before the Texas Commission on Virtual Education on August 23, 2022, and offered expert testimony and insight into increasing equity and opportunity through virtual learning. Drawing on TLA’s previous work in Texas, such as support for Raising Blended Learners and work with the Texas Education Agency to develop a framework for Remote Learning Excellence, combined with extensive work on virtual learning during the past two years, Rabbitt asked state legislators, “How might Texas leverage virtual education to drive greater equity and opportunity for students?” 

Rabbitt’s presentation highlighted TLA’s key baseline findings on virtual learning: the importance of quality, not modality, in the virtual context, the idea that we shouldn’t confuse learning continuity with long-term strategic use of virtual learning, and the need to focus on creating new opportunities for learners and stakeholders. According to her testimony, the levers for state-wide action should focus on quality, equitable student learning and experiences rather than on inputs. Additionally, a state can play a role in creating common, aligned infrastructure and interoperability while also leveraging a state’s economy for research and networking.

Blog Rewind: A Collection of Summer Writing

Summer flew by so quickly! In case you missed it, TLA was busy covering timely topics ranging from digital equity to virtual school enrollment shifts. Do you have concerns about your school leaders’ wellbeing and want actionable steps to help them? Check out this blog on helping your school leaders succeed (and how to retain them). Facing enrollment challenges in district-based virtual schools? Read about three shifts that emphasize flexibility in the face of volatility

In an exciting collaboration with Thrive, a nonprofit consulting firm dedicated to supporting nonprofits build capacity, TLA published a five-part blog series on sustainable change management. Each post — filled with concrete, tangible resources — aimed to shine a light on how to best leverage outside resources, understand your personal context, and begin the work with your team to support long-term change, following a four-step process Thrive has found essential. 

Efforts around digital equity cannot focus solely on internet and device access, TLA Partner Beth Holland and our team argued in a recently released report, From Digital Access to Digital Equity: Critical Barriers That Leaders and Policymakers Must Address to Move Beyond “Boxes & Wires,” that examined five critical barriers to digital equity that education and policy leaders need to address: digital redlining, the digital use divide, privacy taxes, adult bias, and ethical concerns. A three-part blog series stemming from the report took a closer look at data privacy and media literacy concerns stemming from the digital use divide. Stay tuned for the final blog in the series on ethical considerations for education leaders. 

Partner Highlight

National Parents Union logo

The National Parents Union is a network of highly effective parent organizations and grassroots activists across the U.S. that is united behind a set of common goals and principles to channel the power of parents. The organization's family advocates work to improve the quality of life for children across the country and maintain their stake in the national education conversation. Their mission is to "support parents who have lived experience and are authentic voices, advocates, and organizers who are engaging, educating, and empowering families, neighborhood by neighborhood, across the United States."

We are happy to share resources and opportunities from our partners. If you are interested in collaborating with TLA and learning more about how we can work together to make strides for education equity, please contact Jessica Mayorga.

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